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No Meat, Yet So Tasty: Vegetarian / Vegetable Spaghetti Recipe

Vegetarian Spaghetti Recipe
Vegatable Spaghetti is served!

Fear not – I am not becoming a vegetarian.

To me, meat is important. I can’t imagine a life without meat.

That said — vegetables really deserve some credit. When cooked properly, vegetables carry their own in terms of flavor and it’s easy to make delicious dishes using  only vegetables and no meat.

One such thing that I make quite often around here is a vegetarian spaghetti. It’s technically a “vegetable-only” spaghetti; I have no idea if putting the cheese on this makes it non-vegetarian, but let’s leave it at that.

Vegetarian Spaghetti Recipe Occasions

More often than not, I’m making a meat sauce of some kind of spaghetti. But when you cook a lot at home like I do, you inevitably end up with leftover vegetables in Ziploc bags and Tupperware in your refrigerator. It’s at times like these that I will make this spaghetti; it’s a great way to use up all the vegetables at once.

Add to this those times when you’re “meated out”; after days of steaks, chicken, pork chops, etc. — sometimes, you just want something simple and relatively light.

On this day, I had some leftover and slowly yellowing broccoli hanging out in my vegetable compartment in the fridge. It was still days away from going bad, but they were begging to be cooked. In terms of flavor, broccoli wouldn’t really add much to the red sauce — so they were designated as the side. Just a quick boil in salt water and cooled down in ice-cold water — they were ready to be served.

Vegetarian Spaghetti Recipe Ingredients

This recipe will yield around 3-4 servings, depending on appetite and portion size.

Pretty shallots in Vegetable Spaghetti

The first thing I had in my fridge were shallots. Leftover from another dish, I sliced them and put them aside. I used four shallots for this recipe.

Prepping ingredients for vegetable spaghetti recipeSome other items I prepped for this recipe were as follows:

  • Garlic: minced or sliced, it’s up to you. I had some minced garlic that I had prepared days before, so I used about 2T of it.
  • Parsley: this was about 1/2 head of parsley that I bought at the farmers’ market days before — just use as much or as little as you want.
  • Basil: I had a full head of basil dying an ugly death in the fridge — one of those things that just got lost underneath other vegetables. All I could save from this was about about 7-8 leaves, which was enough for the purpose of this post — but ideally, I like to put in a lot of basil. But, as mentioned, this is about getting rid of leftovers — not about buying new stuff to make a spaghetti!
How to put parsley into spaghetti
Closeup of the parsley

With the parsley, slice loosely into relatively small pieces — but don’t completely mince them into tiny bits. You want some green pieces to accent the dish.

Olive oil in a pan to begin making veggie spaghetti

I used about 2.5 T of olive oil, I’d guess, poured into a hot pan. With this sauce, you want to use the best EVO you have; this is a big part of what provides the flavor in this dish, so the more fragrant and flavorful your olive oil is, the better.

Note that I’m just starting to boil heavily salted water for the pasta in the back.

Vegetable Spaghetti Recipe

Shallots and garlic for taste in the hot olive oil for Vegetable Spaghetti

I like to throw my shallots (or onions) in at the same time with garlic; the larger pieces of the shallots cool down the oil so as to not burn the garlic; they will at least buy you some seconds to cool it down if the oil happens to be too hot. Just lightly cook the garlic and shallot until they are heated through completely; no need to brown them or completely sweat them.

ADD SALT. As I always mention, it’s good to season as you add ingredients so that each component of a dish gets its own appropriate seasoning and cooking time.

Vegetarian Spaghetti Recipe
Leftover tomatoes!
Tomatoes in the Vegetarian Spaghetti
Slowly stir. Keep stirring.

About this time, I realized I had 3/4 of a regular tomato left in the refrigerator so I chopped that up and tossed it in, too. Not essential but it adds some bulk and “bits” to the sauce. Any other vegetables you have, consider adding to the sauce. But just like i left the broccoli out, give some consideration to what the vegetable is. For example, I would definitely add peppers or corn to this sauce, but Brussels sprouts or okra — I’d probably use as a side dish like I am doing with the broccoli. (By this point in the cooking process, I’ve already completed the broccoli and they are cooled and draining in the kitchen sink.)

Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce Recipe
Crushed tomatoes

After stirring the mix in olive oil for about 5 minutes, I pour in the lightly pureed peeled tomatoes.


 carmelinas san marzano




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Earlier, I made a point that you should use the best olive oil you have. This isn’t a dish where you should run out to buy $40 EVO, but if you do have a choice, use your best. 

The same applies to the tomatoes, but it’s even more essential. Any tomato sauce without the best tomatoes you can get your hands on will be sub-par. Thus far, for all of my tomato-based sauces, I use San Marzano tomatoes. They’ll always be out of can, and this time — the brand I’m using for this is Carmelina’s.

There very well may be even better brands, but this, or Cento’s San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes (which you’ve seen me use on various other recipes) are always reliable and readily available without spending a fortune buying imported brands. Panic will ensue if I don’t have at least 5-7 cans of San Marzano tomatoes in the house.


For this vegetable spaghetti recipe, I poured a whole can into the food processor and gave it a quick run to turn the whole, peeled potatoes into a slightly chunky puree. I don’t want a complete soup without any texture, but I did want to break them down more than my normal “squishing” of whole tomatoes. The idea here is that whatever flavor I get from this, I need the sauce the texturally “coat” the pasta; I don’t want big chunks on the pasta for this sauce, and I absolutely do not want the sauce dripping to the bottom of the plate.

Homemade Vegetable Spaghetti Sauce Recipe
Closeup of the sauce — puree to this extent

Slightly chunky puree should look something like this.

It’s not the end of the world if you over-processed this, or if you left it too chunky. I’m merely telling you what I would recommend. A blender or a food processor works fine for this.

Vegetable Spaghetti Recipe -- KEY STEP

Once you’ve stirred in the sauce nicely — this is a key step in terms of flavor. (Italians buried worldwide are rolling in their graves right now but don’t mind them — just trust me on this.) You can have a perfectly nice bowl of spaghetti without doing this, but this is the step that takes your vegetable spaghetti recipe from good to REALLY good. When I’m making a meat sauce, I don’t do this — but meat adds a dimension to flavor that this vegetable spaghetti recipe lacks.

For this amount of sauce (based on a whole 28 oz. can of tomatoes), I used about 1.75 T of soy sauce. In my case, I used low-sodium soy sauce — so perhaps use 1.5 T if you’re using regular soy sauce.

Add black pepper.

Basil in Veggie Only Spaghetti Recipe
Add the basil you sliced earlier.

Once you’ve stirred in the soy sauce and pepper, slowly stir in your basil. As mentioned earlier, I would have preferred a little more basil — but this is all I had.

Red wine in vegetable spaghetti recipe
Add a decent red wine to the sauce.

I highly recommend using a decent to good red wine when adding wine to cooking, especially if you’ll be having wine with dinner. (There’s really no need to use “excellent” wine in cooking, in my opinion, unless you’re making a true wine sauce.)

Wine in the vegetable spaghetti recipe
Regusci Rosé wine

I used up a little bit of “table” wine I had  — a rosé wine that I’m trying to get rid of as it’s getting too old. I have no idea why I have a few bottles of this wine taking up space in my wine cellar, but I bought five bottles back in 2007 or so on a trip to Napa, and only used two so far. I had imagined doing light pasta salads and pretty sandwiches for lunch with the ladies with this pretty nice rosé wine — but that actually never happened. Any time I cook, I seem to open the whites, Zins or Cabs. But back then, this rosé was very pretty in flavor (and much lighter in color), if you can imagine that, and bright in taste. It’s far from “bad” at this point, but it’s not really the ideal wine I’d serve as the wine of choice for any dinner, so it’s been designated to cooking.

So I used this and it was fine. I’ve also used white wine in this dish — and that’s fine, too. I’m merely adding some more depth to the flavor of this light vegetable spaghetti sauce, and a little more liquid.

Use about 1/4 cup of wine and add to the sauce — and once you bring the sauce up to a full boil, set to simmer on low.

Boil the Noodles for the Vegetable Spaghetti Recipe

Vegetable Spaghetti Recipe
Boil the spaghetti

Now, if you recall, I was beginning to boil salted water while making sauce.

Once the sauce is simmering, then I start my pasta. 

Vegetable Spaghetti Recipe
Check — and remove the noodles at al dente

First, in the boiling salted water, I add some extra virgin olive oil. Then, toss the spaghetti in and stir around to ensure that each noodle is getting access to some oil so they don’t stick together.

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Another side note: 
In what world is one regular box of spaghetti equal to SEVEN servings?
In the real world, it’s about 3-5 servings, depending on what kind of appetites are consuming dinner. Unless you’re feeding seven two-year olds, I cannot get seven servings out of one box unless a steak is coming with my spaghetti. Either that, or we just eat too much…which is possible, too.

Vegetarian Spaghetti Recipe
Olive Oil!

Let the noodles boil and as they approach “al dente” — remove and strain in a colander. Strain well and do NOT RINSE the noodles. (I mention this because I know two people who rinse their hot noodles. Not for spaghetti, my friends.)

Vegetarian Spaghetti Recipe
Olive oil in noodles

Return the spaghetti you drained to the pot (off the heat) and drizzle some olive oil over them to keep them smooth and silky, and to prevent clumping or sticking. It also adds some great olive flavor. I often sprinkle some salt on my spaghetti noodles, too — just a little bit to make the flavor pop. Do, or don’t do this step, depending on how salty your sauce is at this point.

Vegetarian Spaghetti RecipeAt this point, your vegetable spaghetti sauce has been simmering for about 15-20 minutes, or time the pasta boiling to ensure that it gets at least this much time to simmer and pull all the flavors out of the vegetables into the sauce.

Pour the entire pot of sauce over the lightly oiled noodles.

Vegetarian Spaghetti Recipe
Add parsley

Remember the parsley you chopped up before? Throw the entire amount into the sauce now. Had we put this into the sauce earlier, it would be dark green and not visible, much like the basil — but parsley’s main appeal is the fresh flavor and really bright color. 

It’s like Christmas in this pot right now.

Vegetarian Spaghetti Recipe
Mix it all up.

Give the whole thing a light mixing. You want to make sure every noodles get some sauce — but no need to mangle the spaghetti to do this. Just fold over onto itself a handful of times and it should be coated nicely.



Plate the spaghetti and if you have a side dish, arrange onto the plate.

Last but nowhere near the least — get some fresh Parmesan cheese and sprinkle as much as you like onto the plate. 

And that’s it. Despite the number of photos in this post and the overall length, it’s a really easy recipe to make. The length is just me breaking it down into tiny steps for those of you who don’t know how to cook. Between folks who cook, I could probably explain it in about 200 words from to top to bottom.

The vegetable spaghetti recipe is below. Give it a try on any evening when you have about 40 minutes to cook from start to finish — it can be done in even less time if you need it to be. It also tastes quite delicious the next day — even if consumed cold.

If you try it – please let me know how you liked it!


DELICIOUS Vegetable / Vegetarian Spaghetti
Here's my recipe for a 100% vegetable-only pasta that will rival meat sauces anywhere. There's a tip or two in here that has to be followed to get that flavor. It's also a great way to use up any vegetable leftovers.
Cuisine: Italian
Recipe type: Pasta
Serves: 4
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 - 2.5T Garlic
  • 4-5 Shallots or 1 Onion
  • Handful of Basil
  • Parsley
  • 1 Tomatoes
  • 1 Can Carmelita's San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes
  • ¼ C Red Wine
  • < 2 T Soy Sauce
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  1. Prep garlic, onions, parsley and basil into separate bowls.
  2. Heat olive oil in a pan and lightly cook the garlic and onions until heated through.
  3. Add tomatoes -- stir for a minute into the sauce.
  4. Lightly puree the peeled tomatoes.(See post for details.)
  5. Add the entire amount of pureed tomatoes into the sauce.
  6. Add basil.
  7. Add soy sauce.
  8. Add black pepper.
  9. Add wine.
  10. Salt to taste.
  11. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  12. Boil pasta in that time, drain and drizzle with EVO.
  13. Pour the entire sauce amount onto the noodles.
  14. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.
* I'm using one box of standard spaghetti noodles. Regardless of what the box states is the amount of servings in that box -- in our family, this usually yields about 4 servings.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 4



Grace Keh

Managing Editor

Grace Keh is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to San Francisco" and the critic, editor and photographer behind San Francisco Food. In her regular day job, she consults for corporate clients in marketing and event strategy. Once the sun sets, she's on the hunt for great food in what she considers to be one of the world's greatest cities, San Francisco.

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Great recipe Grace. I made a similar sauce for spaghetti last week and added sauteed yellow and green zucchini, carrots, red pepper, celery, plus all of your ingredients too. It wasn't vegetarian though because I sauteed grass fed ground beef and added that to the sauce. My 11 year old niece helped me in the kitchen that evening and ate it all up! That's success.

Thanks for sharing


Meatless?!?!? Not acceptable!! :-)


Yummy, even without meat!


No Meat, Yet So Tasty: #Vegetarian / Vegetable #Spaghetti Recipe - http://t.co/gi0Xg40gjy via #sffood #cooking

San Francisco Food® has been providing trusted restaurant reviews and recipes since 2009, led by food author Grace Keh & read by food lovers worldwide.


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