There’s nothing quite as comforting as a bowl of spaghetti bolognese. And there aren’t many things that can come quite as close to recreating a meaty sauce with than with Textured Soy Protein (TVP).
As a by-product of soy oil extraction, TVP is a processed product but is fun to feature in my dishes once in a while. When re-hydrated in water and cooked, TVP becomes a fascinating source of protein that has the texture of minced meat and readily surrenders to any flavours added to it. Its versatility and affordability makes it an attractive ingredient to keep in the plant-based kitchen. It is available at the health / organic food sections of big supermarkets, and also on Lazada.
I tried my first plant-based Spaghetti Bolognese with TVP at an unassuming coffee shop in Kepong during my college days. I never forgot how impressive the sauce was, even though I only found out about TVP a few years later. To honour that memory, I’ve created my own bolognese sauce.
Most of the tomato-base pastas I’ve had in cafes are too bland, too scant, or too watered down for my liking. My sauce is ‘perfect’ in its intensity: a bold, uncompromising mix of tangy, sweet and salty. You know that feeling when you get a tight hug from a hot friend? That’s the closest I can get to describing how this tastes. And the best part is, you can pour as MUCH of this innocently hot hug over your pasta as you want. Bye Bye Bolognese Halfways, Hello Homemade Heaven Out of Hand.
If you can’t find TVP where you are, or simply prefer something less processed, you can easily substitute it with fresh veggies of your choice, which I do quite often too. Just prepare the sauce on its own without the TVP, shallow fry your chopped veggies for 2-5 minutes in a wok, then add the sauce and cook together for a few more minutes. My favourite veggies to use are broccoli, bell pepper, eggplant, zucchini, carrot, corn and snow peas.
Make this humble dish for your loved ones and be prepared to have enough for second rounds!
Perfect Bolognese Sauce
My plant-based take on the well-loved Italian classic, using Textured Soy Protein to replace minced meat. It can easily be replaced with fresh mixed vegetables for a non-processed alternative.
- 1 cup textured soy protein (TVP)
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small can (220g) tomato purée
- 1 1/2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 1/2 tsp arrowroot powder
- 2 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 large onion
- 1 large tomato
- 1/4 tsp liquid smoke
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp paprika powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper powder (Optional)
- Step 1 Stir water into a bowl containing the textured soy protein and let it soak for 5 minutes.
- Step 2 Put all sauce ingredients into a separate bowl and stir evenly.
- Step 3 Stir soaked textured soy protein into the sauce and let it sit for another 5 minutes.
- Step 4 Heat olive oil in a pan on medium heat.
- Step 5 If replacing TVP with fresh vegetables, lightly cook the vegetables first for 3-5 minutes.
- Step 6 Pour sauce into pan and let it simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it starts to gently bubble with heat.
- Step 7 Serve immediately over pasta of choice.