Tempeh and Tomato Ragout (for Pasta)

I’ve always enjoyed hearty pasta sauces, but I don’t always have the hours they often take to cook down. This tempeh ragout is rich and hearty, and doesn’t need all afternoon to simmer. Crumbling the tempeh gives it a texture not unlike ground pork, and the addition of some rosemary and toasted fennel seed yields a mild sausage flavor to the overall sauce. A little red wine and some canned tomatoes add a little acidity that helps to lighten things up.   If you’re not a huge fan of tempeh (it took us a while before it became a favorite of our), this is a great recipe to try.  The small pieces and seasoning help blend it into to the sauce, making it a subtle flavor as opposed to the stronger one tempeh can have when eaten on its own.

Tempeh and Tomato Ragout
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
This rich sauce of tempeh, red wine and stewed tomatoes makes a hearty sauce for your favorite pasta
Serves: 4 servings
  • 1 tsp Fennel Seeds
  • ¼ tsp Chili Flakes
  • 1 block of Tempeh, crumbled into small pieces, think the consistency of cooked ground pork
  • 6 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium Onion, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 1 medium Carrot, peeled and cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 1 rib Celery, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 4 cloves Garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ cup dry Red Wine (consult a source like Barnivore for vegan-suitable wines)
  • 1 780ml/28oz can Whole Plum Tomatoes in Juice
  • Leaves from 1 sprig of Rosemary, chopped (about 2 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 lb dry Pasta, use what shape makes you happy
  • Kosher Salt
  • Freshly ground Black Pepper
  1. In a medium sauce pot (4qt size), or large frying pan with a lid, toast the fennel seeds over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and grind coarsely. Add the chili flakes to the fennel seeds
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the same pan and add the tempeh crumbles. Cook stirring frequently until the tempeh is well browned. Add a little more oil if the pan goes dry. Some tempeh bits will stick to the bottom of the pan, this is fine. Just keep an eye on them for signs of burning.
  3. When browned, transfer the tempeh to a plate.
  4. Add the remaining oil to the same pan, but lower the heat a bit.
  5. Add the onion and sweat for 5 minutes or until it becomes translucent and softens. Take this time to start to scrape up the tempeh bits left in the pan
  6. Add the carrot and celery and continue cooking for another 6-8 minutes.
  7. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute. It should smell great at this point
  8. Add the ground fennel and chili flakes and stir to incorporate
  9. Pour in the red wine and bring it to a simmer
  10. If there was any tempeh bits still left on the bottom of the pan, be sure to scrape them all up now. They are going to add some great flavor.
  11. Keep cooking until the wine is almost completely reduced.
  12. Pour in the tomatoes and their juice. Crush them roughly with a fork. Try to keep some bigger pieces in there.
  13. Simmer for 5-6 minutes with the lid on. The sauce will have thickened quite a bit.
  14. Add the rosemary and tempeh. Keep simmering for another 8 to 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes. As the sauce thickens even more, keep an eye that is doesn’t stick or burn. If you feel it’s getting dangerously close to doing that, stir in a couple tablespoons of water to thin it out.
  15. Cook the pasta in well salted water. 1 tablespoon of kosher salt for every 2 quarts/Liters of water should be good.
  16. Drain the pasta when it still has around 2 minutes of cooking left to do. Save a cup of the pasta cooking water (gather it just before you drain the pasta)
  17. Add the pasta to the ragout along with the cup of cooking water.
  18. Simmer everything together until the sauce thickens again and the pasta is fully cooked. Around 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice.
  19. Check the seasoning and add a little salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed


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