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The Best Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi

April 3, 2023
Shanika | Orchids + Sweet Tea
Get into this rich, flavorful, and hearty The Best Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi which is the perfect healthy dish for feeding the entire family or as an easy weeknight meal.

The Best Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi

The Best Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi is a great rendition of it's traditional counterpart------entirely rich, hearty, and vegetable-packed, this dinner is perfect for Meatless Monday or any night of the week for that matter! Made with freshly chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, herbs + spices, quinoa, garlic, cooking wine, and a few pinches of brown sugar, this recipe will be considered an easy stove-top dinner that's a winner! Gluten-free option.

Closeup of Vegan Meat Sauce on Gnocchi

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links via Amazon for products that I wholeheartedly love.

Seriously, I'm so excited to share this dish with you all because it's SO GOOD! If you've been an avid reader of Orchids + Sweet Tea, then you're aware that while I love meat-based dishes, especially chicken or seafood, I'm always the most happy to indulge in meatless and/or vegan dishes because I enjoy them the most! This Best Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi is one of those dishes.

It's such an easy addition to your week or laidback weekend and one that the entire family would love, which is the basic requirement for most (if not all) of my recipes. I know how hard it is to find a dish that the entire family will love, however, that's why I choose to create "personalized" options and substitutions so that everyone CAN enjoy! Much like this Vegan Bolognese and Skillet Baked Cheesy Pumpkin Gnocchi which I highly recommend trying!

And if you're a lover of gnocchi, then you'll love this oven-baked Garlic Chicken Broccoli Gnocchi Recipe!

What is Meat Sauce Made of?

This meatless vegan 'meat' sauce recipe has a rich and complex flavor that you might even call meaty, which is why I love using quinoa. That's thanks to plenty of umami from tomato paste, freshly chopped vegetables, dried herbs, and quinoa. I promise that even the biggest beef fan won't miss the meat in this vegan meat sauce. Plus, you can always substitute with your favorite meat alternative like mushrooms, plant-based meat, etc.

If you've seen most recent recipes with gnocchi, then you're probably aware that I've recently become a fan of gnocchi and so I'm currently testing great ways to enjoy it. While I've heard that making gnocchi from scratch tastes that much better, I've really enjoyed the store-bought version from Delallo, which has been easy to cook and really good. But I will try making them from scratch soon! I promise!

What is Gnocchi and How Do You Make It?

Gnocchi are basically Italian dumplings made with flour, eggs, and potatoes---unless they are egg-free like this one that I purchased from Delallo foods. When it comes to making your own gnocchi, the process is done is fairly a few steps. It starts with boiling and mashing the potatoes, combining the ingredients together and kneading them into a ball, shaping the dough, cutting them into pieces, and boiling and draining the gnocchi. For a great recipe, check out AllRecipes.com.

Ingredients for Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi including tomatoes, red onion, garlic, and tomato sauce

How to Make The Best Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi

To make this The Best Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi, you'll start by boiling the gnocchi until they're tender and float to the top of the water, drain, and seta side. Then, you'll need a deep skillet or dutch oven on the stove to sauté the garlic and onions, until fragrant. Once that's done, you'll toss in the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, herbs + seasonings, brown sugar, and other ingredients, stirring and letting them simmer together. Finally, you add in the cooked quinoa, stir and simmer a few minutes more until everything comes together! Serve atop gnocchi and enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

Here are the ingredients you need for this The Best Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi:

  • Gnocchi. You can make them yourself or purchase a quality store-bought version from Delallo Foods. For a gluten-free version, simply use gluten-free gnocchi.
  • Tomatoes. You can add as many tomatoes as you'd like to fill this meat sauce. I used tomato-on-the-vine, however, grape tomatoes, heirlooms, roma, etc. works too! Just chop them up into nice bite-sized pieces. You can even add roasted herb tomatoes for a nice touch!
  • Red onion. Substitute with yellow or white if that’s what you have.
  • Garlic. You can never have too much! I recommend using 4-6 cloves to infuse this vegan meat sauce with flavor.
  • Olive oil. I prefer the organic oil from Brightland or California Olive Ranch for quality! You can also use grapeseed oil or avocado oil, if desired.
  • Red pepper flakes. For a bit of heat that doesn’t overwhelm.
  • Herbs + Seasonings. These dried herbs add to the savory Italian flavor of this sauce. I love using oregano, basil, garlic powder, smoked paprika, salt, black pepper, and parsley. You can also use Italian seasoning, if that's what you have!
  • Red tomato paste. This is my secret flavor-enhancer and the thing that gives this dish some color.
  • Tomato sauce. This is the base of the sauce to make things nice a smooth. Two 15 oz. cans will do!
  • White wine. Choose dry wine for the best flavor. This adds a bit of acidity to the meat sauce. You can sub with veggie stock.
  • Quinoa. Use as the original, red, or multi-color version. Totally up to you! You can also use vegan meatballs (minced), mushrooms, or lentils if you'd like!
  • Brown sugar. I love using organic brown sugar to ensure it's vegan.

Chopped tomatoes on a cutting board with a knife

5 REASONS WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS VEGAN MEAT SAUCE + GNOCCHI!

  • It's packed with flavors from the sauce and gnocchi that is entirely meatless, but can also be enjoyed with meat and works for any type of eater.
  • Super easy to make and quick.
  • Full of rich, hearty, + delicious flavor! (The best reason!)
  • Very kid-friendly and perfect for the entire family.
  • Comes with a gluten-free option for those with sensitivities.
  • Done in just under 35 minutes---hello, weeknight meal goals!

Hate Cooking Quinoa in Fears of it Being Bland in Flavor?

OK, so I’ve heard so many people talk about not really being a huge fan of quinoa because it has no taste or the taste is so bland.

Honestly, the KEY is to build flavor for every component of your dish so that together, the flavor is EXPLODING, including with your quinoa.

MY SECRET? Veggie stock or chicken stock (for non-vegan/vegetarian options) or milk. Yup. Instead of using water, I just substitute with some sort of stock or milk, adding salt or whatever based on necessity. Trust me, your quinoa will NEVER BE THE SAME after this delicious trick.

Spoon stirring Vegan Meat Sauce in a pan

What Kind of Quinoa is Best for this Vegan Meat Sauce?

You can use any kind of quinoa to make your Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi. It can be cooked beforehand (and stored in the refrigerator in a tightly-sealed container) or boiled at the same time as the recipe states. White (original) quinoa will give you a whiter-colored look, though multi-color or red grains will give you a stronger nuttier flavor and will blend best with this meat sauce.

What's the Difference Between Meat Sauce and Spaghetti Sauce?

At first glance, both might look the same, however, there's a difference. In general, meat sauce is more robust and complex in flavor that creates a richness and includes more ingredients. While spaghetti sauce or marinara, is simpler and thinner in texture and doesn't include meat.

What Makes Meat Sauce Taste Better?

OK, so when it comes to making your vegan meat sauce (or any meat sauce) taste better, it only takes a few simple tweaks to achieve this! Here are my favorite ways to elevate my meat sauce or sauces in general:

  • Fresh garlic instead of garlic powder
  • Fresh chopped herbs like basil, oregano, etc.
  • Adding white or red wine for added flavor.
  • Red pepper flakes adds a bit of heat.
  • Butter and olive oil together for sautéing for extra fat and flavor.
  • Fresh tomatoes nicely chopped instead of canned ones.

SHOP MY FAVORITE TOOLS FOR COOKING, ESPECIALLY FOR THIS MEAT SAUCE + GNOCCHI!

Here, I’ve curated a list of cooking + baking essentials that I use to achieve my favorite baked goods or cooked meals, especially with The Best Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi. Everything from my fave baking sheet, dutch ovens, wooden spoons, mixing bowls, and more. SEE THEM HERE!

Overhead shot of a bowl of Vegan Meat Sauce on Gnocchi

How to Make Homemade Italian Seasoning

If you're thinking about making your own Italian seasoning blend, then look no further! All you need is handful of herbs + spices, mix them together, and wallah! You'll need 2 teaspoons of each simple ingredient:

  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Garlic powder
  • Red pepper flakes

How to Store Homemade Italian Seasoning

You can keep leftover seasoning in a small tightly sealed jar and at room temperature for up to 6 months like your other herbs + spices.

Herb Roasted Tomatoes

The herb-roasted tomatoes offer a delicious umami-packed flavor foundation for this velvety vegan meat sauce.

Overhead shot of a bowl of Vegan Meat Sauce on Gnocchi with forks

What to Eat + Serve Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi With?

When it comes to most pasta dishes (including this Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi dish), I often enjoy them with a side of bread of some sort. Most times, I make my own homemade Garlic Bread, however, you can choose to spruce things up with many other options such as:

  • A delicious Salad
  • Sautéed Greens
  • Grilled Veggies
  • Toasted Bread

How to Store Leftover Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi

Any leftovers can be kept in a tightly sealed container and refrigerated for up to 3-4 days. To re-heat, simply microwave for a minute or two or add to a skillet over medium-high heat and stir until heated through.

Can I Make this Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi Gluten-free?

Absolutely! To make this dish GF, simply use Gluten-Free gnocchi or pasta. Also, if using breadcrumbs, ensure that they are GF-friendly!

Other Comforting Vegan Recipes You’ll Love!

My Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi is a smash hit, so if you like this one, you will love these recipes!

MADE OUR RECIPE(S)?

If you make this Best Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi, be sure to tag me on Instagram @orchidsandsweettea!

Closeup of Vegan Meat Sauce on Gnocchi

Closeup of Vegan Meat Sauce on Gnocchi

The Best Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi

April 3, 2023
5 from 1 vote
Get into this rich, flavorful, and hearty The Best Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi which is the perfect healthy dish for feeding the entire family or as an easy weeknight meal.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Serves: 2 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 (16 oz.) package cooked potato gnocchi, homemade or store-bought

QUINOA:

  • ½ cup quinoa, original or multi-color
  • 4 cups organic vegetable stock

MEAT SAUCE:

  • 2 Tbsps Extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ red onion, chopped
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced (Adjust amount depending on desired level of garlic flavor)
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil (You can also use fresh copped basil)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 4 Tbsps organic tomato paste
  • 3 cups organic chopped tomato-on-the-vine (You can also use any tomatoes or a 28 oz. can of peeled tomatoes)
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans organic tomato sauce
  • 2 tsps organic brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsps white cooking wine (You can sub with veggie stock instead)

GARNISH:

  • Toasted breadcrumbs, optional (See Notes!)
  • Vegan parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions

TO COOK THE QUINOA:

  • Add the veggie stock to a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until it begins to boil. Add in the quinoa, whisking continuously while boiling for 1-2 minutes. Reduce heat to bring to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, whisking every 3-4 minutes until fully cooked through, and water has dried, and the quinoa has thickened. NOTE: This should produce 1 cup of cooked quinoa.

TO MAKE THE MEAT SAUCE:

  • In a medium deep skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and let it heat. Add the minced garlic and chopped onions and sauté until fragrant and translucent, about 1-2 minutes.
  • Add in the oregano, basil, salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and parsley-----stirring until combined. Stir in the tomato paste followed by the tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, brown sugar, and white cooking wine, stirring to combine. Reduce the heat to low and let the sauce simmer, stirring occasionally until sauce begins to thicken slightly and the tomatoes become tender, about 8-10 minutes. NOTE: You can add ¼ cup of veggie stock to sauce to make it more "saucy" if desired.
  • Add in the 1 cup of cooked quinoa, stirring until combined. Let it simmer for another 2-3 minutes so that the quinoa soaks in some of the sauce.
  •  Remove from heat and serve cooked gnocchi with spoonfuls of meat sauce atop. Garnish with toasted breadcrumbs and/or grated vegan parmesan cheese, if desired.
  • Bon Appetit!

Tips & Tricks

  • STORAGE: Any leftovers can be kept in a tightly sealed container and refrigerated for up to 3-4 days. To re-heat, simply microwave for a minute or two or add to a skillet over medium-high heat and stir until heated through. 
  • GLUTEN-FREE: To make this dish GF, simply use Gluten-Free gnocchi or pasta. Also, if using breadcrumbs, ensure that they are GF-friendly!
  • EQUIPMENT: Here, I’ve curated a list of cooking + baking essentials that I use to achieve my favorite baked goods or cooked meals, especially with this The Best Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi . Everything from my fave high-powered blender, baking sheets, wooden spoons, mixing bowls, and more.

Nutrition

Calories: 402kcal | Carbohydrates: 54g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Sodium: 3316mg | Potassium: 801mg | Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 2251IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 153mg | Iron: 7mg

DID YOU MAKE THIS recipe?

Tag @orchidsnsweettea_ on Instagram and hashtag it #orchidsandsweettea

The Best Vegan Meat Sauce + Gnocchi.

Script text: Xx, Shanika

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