Have you ever tried a vegetarian lentil Bolognese? No? It’s soooo good. And OMG its way better than any of those ground meat alternative versions. There is really no need for processed soy-laden products in a vegetarian Bolognese. You just don’t need it. Lentils are a perfect alternative.
For some of us, the word “Bolognese” conjures up images of a very meaty sauce (and for me, my childhood and comfort food too!) but let’s face it, often enough vegetarian or vegan versions of this dish don’t measure up. Depending on the cook, they can certainly be tasty, but somehow might just lack something…“substantial” — exactly what a true Bolognese delivers.
Honestly, who needs mince in their Bolognese?
Vegetarian Lentil Bolognese – it’s the bomb!
This dish is hearty and packed with typical Bolognese ingredients just like the childhood classic I enjoyed. Things like fragrant Italian herbs (oregano, thyme and basil), tomatoes, just enough carrot, red pepper and celery to make it extra flavorful and healthy, garlic and a little red wine taste (for the cook too!) — all the things that hurl us into singing out “Bella Italia”, plus a few more.
Green or Brown Lentils can be used interchangeably
And now the French puy lentils come into play. I love green lentils, but if you don’t have them on hand, just use brown lentils instead. Brown lentils also hold their form well but generally cook up a little quicker than green lentils, so if you do sub them in then you might want to cook them for about 5 minutes less. The puy lentils I buy take 25-30 minutes in total to cook.
Guess what? This lentil bolognese is VEGAN too!
Just skip the parmesan garnish and it’s automatically vegan! That’s right, finishing it off with a little (or a lot) of freshly grated parmesan is completely optional. Or you can substitute it for a vegan version – there is such a thing, right? Personally, I like it and the extra umami-effect it gives and already umami-rich tomato sauce. Up to you!
200 g French green puy lentils
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 small sweet red pepper, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup dry red wine (60 ml)
1/4 cup unsweetened nut/seed milk (I used almond milk) (60 ml)
1 x 400 g can organic chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup water (60 ml)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
500 g whole grain spaghetti
grated parmesan, to serve
chili flakes (optional)
1. Cook the lentils according to package instructions; about 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are just tender (al dente). Drain and set aside.
2. While the lentils are finishing cooking (about 10 minutes in), heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic until translucent; about 5-6 minutes. Add the carrot, red pepper, celery and sauté, stirring, for 10 minutes.
3. Add lentils, bay leaf, herbs, red wine and nut milk and cook for 1 minute.
4. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and water; season with salt, cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper.
5. Meanwhile, fill a large pot with cold water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. While the lentil Bolognese is simmering, cook the pasta according to packet instructions, until al dente. Drain and return to the pot.
6. Serve the spaghetti in individual bowls with a generous portion of the sauce and sprinkled with grated cheese.
TIP: Serve the lentil Bolognese sauce with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles as healthy alternative to pasta!