Tempting Italian Tempeh Recipes

Have you seen tempeh in the supermarket, heard of its wonderful health benefits but not known what to do with it? Or have you bought it, tried to cook it and vowed never again? That actually did happen to me the first time I tried it. But then after cooking it again using some trusty recipes I feel more comfortable cooking it.

All these recipes are Italian inspired, cooked in rich tomato sauces. I found this is my favourite way to cook tempeh, as it has a very meaty in texture but it needs strong flavours to make it tasty. Chickpea or Fava tempeh should also work for these recipes.

What’s your favourite way to cook tempeh?

This recipe was inspired by Italian Meatballs with Tomato Sauce, from The Food of Italy: A Journey for Food Lovers. The original recipe calls for minced pork or beef, ricotta, egg and parmesan. This recipe uses the same spices, but is completely vegan.


Tempeh Pine nut ‘Meatballs’ with Red Wine Tomato Sauce

(vegan, gluten free)


225g tempeh

2 tins diced tomatoes

1/2 cup red wine

1 cup water

sea salt & pepper to taste

raw sugar to taste

1 onion, diced

2/3 cup pine nuts, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, diced

1 cup walnuts

1 tin brown lentils

1.5 cups fresh herbs (basil, parsley, oregano)

3 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

zest from 1 lemon

1/3 cup nutritional yeast

1/3 cup corn crumbs (or other gf bread crumbs)

olive oil


1. Cut the tempeh in cubes then steam for 20 mins to remove bitterness.

2. In the meantime make the sauce. Place diced tomatoes, red wine and water in a pot and bring to the boil. Season with salt, pepper and sugar.  Place on a simmer, until the rest is ready. If the sauce is too bitter or too acidic and you can’t balance with salt and sugar, then add 1 tablespoon of worcestershire sauce.

3. Take a pan and heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add onion and pine nuts and cook for 4-5 mins or until onion is soft and pine nuts are golden brown. Remove from the pan and set to the side to cook.

4. In the same pan add more olive oil and saute diced garlic for 2 mins.

5. In the processor add tempeh, lentils, walnuts, garlic and fresh herbs. Process until combined well.

6. Place mixture into a large bowl, then add onions and pine nuts, 2 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce, fennel seeds, lemon zest, nutritional yeast, corn crumbs and sea salt to taste.

7. Form the mixture into large balls in your hands, then cook them in olive oil in a large pan in batches. You should be able to make 12 ‘meatballs’.

8. Serve ‘meatballs’ with sauce.

*Makes 12 large meatballs

This recipe is inspired by the Roman dish, Bucatini all’amatricana. The dish is made from the ingredients typical of Lazio, cured pork jaws (Guanciale di maiale), pecorino cheese, tomatoes and olive oil. It is typically prepared with Bucatini pasta, which is a thick long pasta with a hole through the center. My version uses marinated tempeh as a pancetta substitute.


Vegan bucatini all’amatriciana

(vegan, gluten free option, nut free)


2-3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, diced

150g Tempeh pancetta (ingredients below)

1 red chili, diced

6-7 small tomatoes, diced

1 tin good quality Italian diced tomato pulp

sea salt and black pepper to taste

4 serves of Bucatini or gluten-free long pasta (400 g)

vegan parmesan for serving (optional)

Ingredients for Tempeh Pancetta (150 g):

2 tsp liquid smoke

1 tsp soy sauce 1 tsp agave

1 tsp agave

sea salt to taste


1. First make the Tempeh Pancetta. Slice the tempeh into thin strips. Place the tempeh in a bowl and drizzle liquid smoke, soy sauce, agave and sea salt. Toss through so that it coats all the tempeh. Leave to marinate for at least 10 minutes.

2. Bring a small pot to the boil, then drop in the whole tomatoes. Boil for 1 minute or until the skin slightly brakes. Then remove them from the water and plunge into ice water. Peel the tomatoes, remove the seeds, then dice the flesh.

3. Heat a large pan with olive oil on medium heat, then add onion and garlic. Fry for 3 minutes or until the onions are translucent.

4. Then add Tempeh Pancetta and fry for another 5 minutes.

5. Add white wine and cook until it evaporates. This should take about 5 minutes.

6. Add the diced tomatoes, chili and tin tomatoes Fill the half the tin with water and add that to the pan as well.

7. Season generously with sea salt and bring to a light boil, then place on a simmer and leave to cook for 30 minutes.

8. Before the sauce is ready, cook the pasta in boiling salty water, until al dente. Then move the pasta from the water straight into the hot sauce. Toss through and serve with cracked black pepper and vegan parmesan.

*Serves 4

This recipe was inspired by Tempeh Piccata, from Chloe’s Kitchen. It is nothing like the original recipe but cooked in a similar way.


Tempeh in Tomato Red wine Sauce with Spaghetti

(vegan, nut free)


olive oil

300g tempeh, sliced into thin triangular pieces

1 small red onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

6 sun-dried tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup red wine

2 tomatoes, diced

sea salt and black pepper to taste

250ml good quality tomato pasta sauce

250ml filtered water

4 serves of spaghetti to serve


1. Take a large heavy based pan and heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium. In batches brown the tempeh on each side. Remove from the pan and leave to the side.

2. Add some more olive oil and then add red onion and garlic. Cook for a few minutes and once it starts to brown add the sun-dried tomatoes and saute for a couple more minutes.

3. Add 1/4 cup of red wine to the pan. Once it has been absorbed, return the tempeh to the pan, add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and another 1/4 cup of red wine.

4. Once most of the wine has been absorbed add tomato pasta sauce and water. Allow it to come to a slight boil, then leave to a simmer for at least 10 minutes or until the pasta is ready. If it starts to dry out add some pasta water to the sauce.

5. Cook the pasta according to packet directions and serve with the sauce.

* Serves 4

This recipe is inspired by Tagliatelle alla bolognese from The Italian Kitchen Bible. This recipe called ingredients such as soffritto, minced beef, red wine, milk, chopped tomatoes, and long fresh pasta. I included these ingredients with a vegan twist.


Fettuccine alla (tempeh) bolognese

(vegan, gluten-free option, nut free)


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 carrot, finely diced

1 stalk celery, finely diced

1 garlic clove, finely diced

1 onion, finely diced

300-350g tempeh

2 tablespoons vegan worcestershire sauce

150ml red wine (I used merlot)

1 cup unsweetened soy milk (or other unsweetened plant milk)

400g can of diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

500g passata sauce (optional, for more than 4 serves)

1 teaspoon nutmeg

sea salt & black pepper to taste

fresh basil and vegan parmesan to serve

fresh/dry fettuccine for 4-8 people

fresh basil to serve

vegan parmesan for serving


1. Heat olive oil in a large pot on medium heat. Then add the carrot, celery, garlic and onion. Cook for 8-10 mins or until vegetables have softened, stir often.

2. Break up the tempeh and add to the pot. Add the worcestershire sauce and cook tempeh with vegetables for 5 mins.

3. Add the red wine and cook until it has absorbed. Stir frequently.

4. Add the soy milk and cook until it has absorbed. Stir frequently.

5. Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste and extra passata sauce (if needed).

6. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Bring to the boil, then place on the lowest heat for 45 mins.

7. In the meantime put the pasta water to boil. Make fresh pasta or take dry pasta and cook until al dente.

8. Once pasta is ready, strain and empty the water from the pasta pot, then add half the bolognese sauce to pasta. Serve the pasta and top with some extra sauce, fresh diced basil and vegan parmesan.

* Serves 4. If serving 8 add 500g of passata sauce in step 5

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