Regardless of how you spell it, I am pretty sure this version isn’t anything like the good people of Bologna make. So technically I should call it something entirely different but ‘I can’t believe there’s not meat in it’ bolognaise is kinda a mouthful, so I’m sticking with ‘Lentil-ese’.
The name sums it up perfectly, it is spaghetti bolognese sauce with lentils instead of meat. I admit I was skeptical when I first tried it, no way would it be the same, and honestly, it isn’t quite the same as a meat based sauce, but it is pretty darn close!
Lentil-ese Spaghetti Sauce Recipe
3/4 cup dried red lentils (see below)
1 tin tomatoes
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
1 zucchini, grated.
A handful of mushrooms chopped.
And onion finely diced (though I leave this out because my kids hate onion)
Garlic – as much or as little as you like
Your choice of herbs – basil, oregano and chives are our favourites.
Now I don’t use any strict measurements for this recipe. Much like regular bolognese, you just chuck in whatever you like and cook it up. So the above quantities are just a very rough idea, feel free to ignore them all together! Same goes for the exact ingredients. If you don’t like mushrooms leave them out all together, or add something else that you do like.
First things you need to do is deal with the lentils, and how you do that will depend on how long you have to cook the sauce. I am always in a hurry so I pre-cook my dry lentils by adding water and either boiling them for a few minutes or putting them in the microwave while I start the sauce. You’ll know they are ready when they go a pale orange colour. If you have hours to simmer your sauce on the stove you could add the lentils to the sauce along with the tomatoes, add 2 cups of water, and let it all simmer away for an hour or two.
So, back to the sauce…
You cook this the same way you’d make any kind of bolognese or pasta sauce. A bit of oil, chuck in the onions and garlic (if you are using them). Then add the tomatoes, zucchini and mushrooms and your pre-cooked lentils (drain the water of them, but it’s ok if they are still quite ‘wet’). Then add a table spoon or two, or three of tomato paste, depending how tomatoey you like it. Let the whole lot simmer away for as long as you can. My husband swears pasta sauce is best cooked for ten hours… but mine is lucky if it gets an hour on the stove!
Stir in your selection of chopped herbs before you serve it with your favourite, or in this house, most kid friendly pasta.
You can also add meat to this recipe. I often add 200 grams of minced beef along with the lentils. The meat gives it a richer, more silky texture and taste, but it is delicious with or without the meat.