Though it may not seem like it, not everyone is eating Paleo or ketogenic or Whole30. Some of us prefer not to chow down on all that meat and to chow down on all that pasta. If that describes you, you’ve come to the right place. These 17 vegetarian pasta recipes are genius riffs on their meaty counterparts. Who’s ready to carbo-load?
Anyone who’s accused vegetarian Bolognese recipes of not having enough flavor clearly hasn’t tasted this sauce. Loaded with two meatless yet meaty ingredients (red lentils and mushrooms) and a medley of veggies to liven up the tomato base, this protein-packed pasta topper is a perfect last-minute dinner. And better yet: The ingredients freeze well, meaning you can make it in bulk and reap the benefits for many meals to come.
Goodness, gracious, great balls of ricotta! While many vegetarian meatball recipes look to the likes of lentils and mushrooms to beef themselves up (sans beef, of course), this recipe turns to creamy ricotta and grated veggies to create some of the most pillowy meatless balls we ever did dig into. Bread crumbs are used to hold them together, but you can also use toasted quinoa to pump up the protein and make them gluten-free.
Looking to load up on veggies but can’t stomach another salad? Make things more fun (and filling) by stacking layers of veg between piles of cheese and lasagna noodles. The result is a week’s worth of leftovers—unless you’re hosting a dinner party—and a heck of a lot of flavor. Feel free to add thinly sliced squash in place of the zucchini (or use both!), throw in mushrooms or artichokes for extra heartiness, and experiment with sauces (like spicy arrabiata) to tweak the taste to your liking.
Sausage is to pasta what sprinkles are to ice cream. Yes, they’re each delicious on their own. But together, now that is something special. Add sun-dried tomatoes and a creamy sauce to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a real carb-filled sundae. Fortunately for those who don’t eat meat, vegetarian sausages are pretty darn tasty and stand up perfectly in pasta dishes like this one. Made creamy with homemade cashew sauce, this vegan dish is capable of convincing anyone that Meatless Monday should be more than once a week.
Do you ever feel like spaghetti noodles don’t do sauce justice? How are you supposed to savor every ounce of sauce when the noodle is as small as a string? While that may work for pesto, we appreciate the girth of pappardelle, which is perfect for capturing heaps of ragu in every single bite. The shallots, balsamic vinegar, and chili flakes give it a little boom, kick, pow, and the rosemary and Parmesan are the perfect top-off for a simple yet satisfying meal.
White wine and manchego aren’t just for tapas nights. This vegetarian version of carbonara uses both to create its light yet still creamy sauce, which beautifully carries the earthiness of asparagus. For extra fiber, sub in whole-wheat pasta and feel free to use whatever type of noodle you have on hand (though hollow ones work best due to their sauce-holding abilities). Who needs bacon, anyway?
News flash: The best vegetarian substitute for ground meat isn’t a vegetarian protein. It’s actually cauliflower florets. (And you thought cauliflower rice was impressive.) Mixed with chopped walnuts and a handful of spices, this meat-free meat sauce is so filling and flavorful we often end up eating it simply by the spoonful. Top on any pasta you fancy and sprinkle with fresh basil and freshly cracked pepper.
If you’re looking to make pasta in bulk (you know you’re going to want seconds), bakes are often the way to go. Yes, that means a little more time in the kitchen, but this recipe keeps things simple with store-bought tomato sauce and pre-grated mozzarella cheese. To shave even more time off, opt for pre-cooked lentils or substitute crumbled tofu sautéed with yellow onions and garlic. We love the creaminess from cottage cheese and punchiness from red pepper flakes.
Wait, did we read that right? Does that ingredient list say sour cream? Why yes, yes it does. Nothing quite captures creamy like that ultimate cream sauce. Paired with paprika, garlic, bay leaves, and tomato paste, this pasta sauce is anything but ordinary—which is one of the many reasons we love it. Thinly sliced portobello and chunks of chopped kale are stirred throughout and scooped up with hearty egg noodles that soak up the sauce like none other.
This dish is like digging into life-size mac and cheese shells covered in herb-infused cream sauce—making it perfect for nights when you want to feel like a kid but enjoy the flavors of adulthood. Filled with fiber-rich butternut squash and sweetened with nutmeg and maple, this dish comforts in all the right ways. Pro tip: Add chopped spinach to the squash purée for some hidden greens.
What’s crunchy, creamy, and dreamy and packed with greens too? Broccoli tetrazzini, of course. Traditionally made with chicken or turkey, this tetrazzini gets its “meat” from none other than sliced mushrooms. Broccoli and cauliflower florets give it extra veggie oomph, and Parmesan cheese and milk create a rich sauce that’s perfected with a golden panko topping. It’s like biting into a hunk of garlic bread but way better.
Never heard of pastitsio? A Greek spin on lasagna, pastitsio is baked pasta with meat sauce and béchamel. But who needs meat when you have pumpkin and feta on your side? Bulked up with peas and egg and covered in the classic cream sauce, this vegetarian bake is an amazing antidote for cold days or times when you’re craving something a bit more decadent. (Psst… fall is a great time to make it, as you can swap in canned pumpkin purée.)
But can it really be piccata if it doesn’t have chicken? Yes, it can, and when it comes to pasta, it’s arguably better without the added protein. Artichokes stand in for meat and prove that few other flavors pair so perfectly with lemon (not to mention that freshly shaved Parmesan cheese). Taking less than 30 minutes to make and requiring only one pot, this dinner is a great way to wind down after a long week.
Broccoli rabe, spicy sausage, and orecchiette is a classic. But just because it’s classic doesn’t mean it can’t (or shouldn’t) be tweaked. This recipe skips the meat and uses broccoli to create a blissfully green sauce that makes the pasta feel just as special as the original. Chili flakes and garlic provide the flavor kick you’re looking for, and veggie broth makes it that much more savory. Top with Parmesan, lemon zest, or toasted bread crumbs.
Here’s a pro tip for navigating an Italian menu: Sugo finto literally means “fake sauce.” (And by fake, we mean meatless.) Made with tomatoes, onion, celery, carrot, and red wine, this sauce tastes far from fake. While we love making fresh pasta when the mood strikes, this recipe can be easily adjusted to include any kind of dry noodles.
While the stuffed dish often turns off novice chefs, this recipe makes things more accessible by stuffing the filling into Ziploc bags and using them to push the ricotta mix into the tubes. Genius. We love the simplicity of flavors—garlic, cheese, and spinach do just the trick—and that our shopping list is fewer than 10 ingredients.
Sometimes you just need spicy sausage to complete a pasta dish. And fortunately, for those times, delicious vegan sausage options exist. Mixed with kale, olives, and fresh basil, the sausage is still the standout ingredient, but you get plenty of other flavors (and nutrients) as you dig in. Layer on mozzarella if you’re vegetarian or opt for a sprinkle of nutritional yeast or toasted pine nuts if you want to keep the recipe 100-percent vegan.