Onion — 1 medium, chopped

Olive oil — splash

Boca or Grillers (vegan version) burgers — 2 to 3 patties cooked halfway in a microwave or otherwise thawed and then mashed with a fork (see options)

Garlic — 5 cloves, minced

Salt — 1/2 teaspoon (optional)

Dried basil — 1/2 tablespoon

Paprika — 1 teaspoon

Dried oregano — 1/2 teaspoon

Dried rosemary — pinch, crushed between your thumb and forefinger

Dried thyme — 1/4 teaspoon

Cayenne pepper — 1/8 to 1/2 teaspoon depending on desire for spiciness

Nutritional yeast — 1/4 cup (optional, see comments)

Diced tomatoes — 2 14.5-ounce cans with juice

Tomato sauce — 1 8-ounce can

Water — 1 cup (I usually just fill the tomato sauce can to rinse it out)

Spaghetti (or any pasta) — 12 ounces dry


1. Cut up the onion. Heat the oil in a large skillet and gently fry the onion for 7 to 10 minutes (or as long as it takes to gather the other ingredients; I gather all the spices and the nutritional yeast in a coffee mug). Add everything else to the skillet except the spaghetti, and cook covered on simmer so it boils occasionally, stirring now and then, until the spaghetti noodles are cooked. Take off the lid on the sauce about 5 minutes before the pasta finishes cooking so that the liquid cooks down a little. If you like your spaghetti saucier, add more water.

2. Cook the spaghetti in a big pot of water. Drain in a colander and rinse with cool water. Serve the sauce over it.


Regarding the vegan Boca burgers, they come in big and small sizes. I use 2 of the big ones that come from Costco or 3 of the small ones from regular grocery stores. Another vegan burger that's similar in texture and taste to Boca is Grillers made by Morningstar. Or you can simply use a bag of Grillers Crumbles, also made by Morningstar. (Not all Grillers and Crumbles are vegan so check the ingredient list!) Morningstar is available in most grocery stores in the frozen food section near the tater tots. 

When the weather's good and we've got fresh tomatoes, we use about five of them (chopped) instead of the canned diced tomatoes. Fresh basil is also nice when available. Just snip 10 or so leaves and shred them.

We usually have this with a small salad and a slice of sourdough bread. Also, we sprinkle additional nutritional yeast on top for extra flavor.


1. Some folks don't like "meat substitutes" like Boca burgers. Totally understandable. If this is you, I would suggest using 8 to 12 ounces of chopped (not just sliced) mushrooms instead. Throw them in the skillet at the start with the onion. Or you can rehydrate some TVP — put about 2 cups in 2 cups of hot water with few squirts of ketchup; cover and let it sit for 10 minutes, then add to the spaghetti sauce.

2. If you don't love the taste of garlic, you might add it to the process when you cook the onion. This will mute the taste more.

3. For what it's worth, when we make this now, I usually steam-fry the onion instead of using oil. It lessens the amount of calories in the dish. To steam-fry, keep a cup of water by the skillet and douse a little in the pan every now and then when the onion starts to stick.

4. Nutritional yeast is a common recipe in vegan cookbooks so I suggest getting some. It's not bread yeast. This is very different. It's available in some stores in their bulk section. At other stores such as Raley's, it's available in the natural foods area with the Bob's Red Mill packages of flour and baking powder. It's yummy. Use it on popcorn and instead of parmesan atop spaghetti. In this recipe, it makes it creamier. But if you don't have any, the spaghetti is still tasty without it.