The best Vegan Pasta Sauce recipe you’ll ever make. A flavorful San Marzano tomato base, sweet fennel, caramelized onion and rich notes of smoked paprika perfectly coat chewy Bucatini noodles. Easy 1-Pot wonder, this simple but oh so flavorful Italian tomato sauce stands out from all the rest.
Best Vegan Pasta Sauce
You simply can’t get this sauce out of a jar!
- San Marzano Tomatoes – These are the holy Grail of all tomatoes and nobody can tell me different. They really are the best canned tomatoes for making the best pasta sauce, they are not acidic, naturally sweet and extra flavorful, not watery and tasteless.
- Onions – any yellow or white onion will work fine here, just make sure it’s a very big one. The most important thing is that you give them plenty of time to start caramelizing and concentrate their sugars. This is the flavor base for your amazing sauce!
- Fennel – oh dear fragrant fennel, these little seeds scream Italian flavor as soon as they hit the hot pan. Think Italian sausage without any cruelty. It’s divine!
- Smoked paprika – you only want a little bit here, just enough for that rich deep flavor but no so much that you can recognize where exactly it’s coming from. Make sure to use the sweet smoked paprika not the bitter one.
- Bay leaf – this magical leaf adds subtle peppery perfume notes and holds up to a very long cooking time. Don’t skip it!
- Garlic – it’s only a symbolic ingredient in this recipe as caramelized onions form the flavor base so feel free to skip it, i usually do. To be completely honest, I only listed it as an ingredient to avoid the debate over the garlic missing from an Italian sauce recipe haha.
- Onion chives – a touch of green to brighten up the dish and complement all the base flavors with its mild and sweet oniony flavor.
- Bucatini – long thick chewy noodles with a hole in the center, the ultimate noodles to serve with this vegan pasta sauce in my honest opinion. They have the perfect texture and chewiness to hold up such a rich thick sauce.
Vegan Pasta Sauce Recipe Tips + FAQ:
- Can i make it creamy? – If desired add about 1/2 cup of cashew cream at the very end to turn this into a pink creamy sauce.
- How do I make it smokier? – For a deeper flavor add more smoked paprika or one teaspoon of liquid smoke in the last 5 minutes of cooking.
- How do I thicken the sauce? -Simply follow the recipe and simmer down the sauce until thick to your liking. Do not add any thickeners of any sort.
- Can i make the sauce without oil? – you can caramelize the onion in some veggie broth or water instead adding just a little bit of liquid at a time as it evaporates. Keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn, slow and low is the answer but it needs more care and babysitting.
- Storage – any leftover pasta sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week in lidded glass containers or frozen for up to 6 months. Remember to thaw it out before reheating.
- Pasta water – your pasta water must taste like the sea, so make sure to add a generous amount of salt. This is the only way to season the pasta perfectly. Reserve about 1 cup of it after cooking your noodles in case you need it to thin out the sauce.
- Pasta Note – The sauce is enough to perfectly coat 17.6 oz or 500 grams package of pasta, a standard artisan Italian package. Regular store bough brands are usually 16 oz or one pound bag, in which case you’ll just end up with extra saucy noodles and I don’t know anyone who ever had a problem with that.
How to Make Vegan Pasta Sauce from Scratch:
- Caramelize a large onion and add some Italian flavor with a good pinch of fennel seeds.
- Add crushed San Marzano tomatoes, bay leaves and smoked paprika for a rich deep flavor. Simmer down until thick and sweet.
- Season the sauce to taste with sea salt and toss with bucatini noodles. Serve with fresh onion chives, basil and extra chili flakes for heat.
Bucatini noodles are my #1 recommendation here, pure chewy comfort. Alternatively you could use spaghetti, long fusilli, rigatoni, gnocchi or something with grooves or ridges that can really hold up to the thickness of this sauce. It’s particularly lovely with a side of this vegan Caesar salad.
Best Vegan Pasta Sauce
- Preheat a heavy bottom large pot over medium heat. Sautée the onion with a pinch of sea salt in a light drizzle of olive oil until it starts to caramelize, a good 25 minutes or so. (Replace oil with veggie stock or water for WFPB + Plantricious compliance).
- Add the fennel seeds and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds or so.
- Meanwhile transfer the San Marzano tomatoes to a large bowl and using your hand carefully crush them until a thick rustic texture is achieved.
- Transfer the tomatoes to the pot with the onions, add the smoked paprika and bay leaves and give everything a good stir.
- Bring the sauce to a simmer and partially cover with a lid. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook for a good 45 minutes to 1 hour until the sauce is nice and thick and concentrated to your liking.
- Season to taste with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Cook the Pasta:
- About 20 minutes before your sauce is done start on your pasta water.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season generously with salt before adding your bucatini noodles (pasta water should taste like the sea). Cook until al dente following instructions on the package. It’s VERY IMPORTANT not to overcook the noodles.
- Using a pair of kitchen tongs transfer the cooked noodles directly into the sauce and finish cooking together for the last minute. Serve topped with the fresh chives, basil and extra red pepper flakes.
- How do I thicken the sauce? -Simply follow the recipe and simmer down the sauce until thick to your liking. Do not add any thickeners of any sort. To thin out the sauce use some of the pasta cooking water to stretch it to your desired consistency.
- Can i make the sauce without oil? - Yes absolutely, you can caramelize the onion in some veggie broth or water adding just a little bit of liquid at a time as it evaporates. Keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn, slow and low is the answer but it needs more care and babysitting.
- Storage - any leftover sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week in lidded glass containers or frozen for up to 6 months. Remember to thaw it out before reheating.
- Note - The sauce should be enough to coat 17.6 oz package of pasta perfectly. The artisan Italian pasta usually comes in that size but the regular store bought brands are usually a standard one pound bag in which case you’ll just end up with extra saucy noodles and I don’t know anyone who ever had a problem with that.
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