Cheesy Bolognese Pasta Bake

This hearty baked pasta dish is easy to make, packed full of plant based protein, and would be great to serve for a family dinner. It’s topped with a deliciously melty layer of dairy free cheese, Italian herbs and toasted breadcrumbs. I served this with a simple green side salad, but it would be great with some crusty garlic bread too. I’ve also included some ways I like to cook with dairy free cheese, and some tips on melting cheese, so skip to the bottom for those

Yield; Four to six servings Cook time; One hour

You’ll need;

  1. One tablespoon of oil
  2. One large stick of celery, finely diced
  3. One small carrot, peeled and finely diced
  4. One small brown onion, peeled and minced
  5. 150g white mushrooms, sliced
  6. Two cloves of garlic, minced
  7. One tablespoon of tomato puree
  8. One 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  9. 250g passata
  10. Half a teaspoon of both dried oregano and dried basil
  11. 300g meat free mince, I used Beef Style Seitan
  12. 300g (this is the uncooked weight) dried penne
  13. 200g grated dairy free cheese, I used 100g Ilchester Melting Mature & 100g Vitalite Dairy Free
  14. Two tablespoons of breadcrumbs
  15. Half a teaspoon of dried mixed herbs/dried Italian herbs


  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Once it’s warmed up, add in the celery, carrot and onion. Give them five minutes to soften
  • Next add in the mushrooms, again give them another five minutes or so to cook. Now add the garlic and the tomato puree. Give them a couple of minutes to cook before adding the chopped tomatoes, passata and herbs
  • Season to taste with salt and a good pinch of sugar too. Pop a lid on the sauce and leave it to simmer for 15 minutes
  • Next add in the mince and give it 10 minutes to heat through. You may have to brown the mince first, depending on what kind it is, but I love to use seitan mince. All you need to do is cook the seitan as per the recipe, then when it’s cooled down, finely dice it into mince. You can also pulse blend chunks of seitan in a blender if that’s more convenient. Since the seitan is already cooked, it just needs to heat through in the sauce. If you’d like to use seitan too, I would recommend using My Beef Style Seitan for this recipe
  • Once the sauce is done you can set it aside. Next, boil the pasta as per the instructions on the packet. Knock a couple of minutes off the cooking time, as it will continue to cook in the oven
  • When the pasta is done, drain it well and stir it through the bolognese. Spoon the pasta and the bolognese into a large oven safe dish
  • Top the pasta and bolognese with the cheese. I used a 50/50 mix of Vitalite Dairy Free Cheese and Ilchester Melting Mature cheese which you can buy from Tesco, Sainsbury’s or online from various different websites. Top the cheese with the breadcrumbs and mixed herbs, then it’s ready for the oven
  • Pop it in at 200Β°C/180Β°C fan assisted for 15 minutes, or until all the cheese has melted. After 15 minutes remove it from the oven and leave it to stand for 10 minutes, then it’s ready to serve

A Note About Dairy Free Cheese

There are so many dairy free cheeses available here in the UK now. I think mixing cheeses can really bring out the best in them

If you find the Ilchester Vegan Melting Mature, Mexicana Vegan or the Applewood Vegan cheese a bit too “sticky” when melted, try mixing them with another cheese. I find the Vitalite dairy free cheese, Sheese, or Violife Epic Mature work the best

This will create a dairy free cheese that melts and stretches (thanks to the Ilchester/Mexicana/Applewood) but isn’t “sticky” and has an improved texture (due to using Vitalite/Sheese/Violife)

Give it a try and see what you think!

I much prefer mixing dairy free cheese in this way. It’s great to top pasta, pizzas or cheese on toast, cheesy garlic bread, in cheese toasties or on cauliflower cheese

I also find that using two cheeses that differ in colour makes the dish look more visually appealing. When I was vegetarian, I enjoyed using a mix of cheeses (usually cheddar, mozzarella, gouda etc) as a pizza or pasta bake topping, so this method replicates that

Tips On Melting Vegan Cheese

  1. Some dairy free cheese has an easier time melting than others, Ilchester, Mexicana and Applewood vegan cheeses melt very easily in my experience
  2. No matter which cheese you’re using, it’s going to have an easier time melting if you finely grate it, instead of slicing it
  3. Vegan cheese tends not to handle high heat too well, so melt at a slightly lower temperature than dairy cheese
  4. Try tenting; If you’re still having trouble, try loosely covering the dish with foil, ensuring the foil doesn’t directly touch the cheese. This should give you a lovely melt without burning or drying out the cheese

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