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 no meat in it bolognese’ is kinda a mouthful, so I’m sticking with ‘Lentil-ese’.
The name sums it up perfectly, it is vegetarian 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!
I’d never cooked with red lentils before I tried this pasta sauce, but now I use them all the time! They blend well with just about anything and are a great way to bulk out mince meat dishes to make them budget friendly and super filling.
I don’t use any strict measurements for this recipe. Much like regular bolognese sauce, you just chuck in whatever you like and cook it up. So the quantities in the recipe are just a rough idea, feel free play around with them. Same goes for the ingredients, play around and add whatever veggies you like.
- 3/4 cup dried red lentils
- A tbsp olive oil
- A medium onion finely diced
- Garlic – as much or as little as you like
- 1 tin diced tomatoes (400gm)
- 2-3 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 zucchini, grated.
- A handful of mushrooms chopped.
- Your choice of herbs – basil, oregano and chives are our favourites.
- Pre-cook the lentils by adding them to a pot of water on the stove and boiling them for five minutes, or microwaving them for a similar amount of time.
- The lentils are ready when they are puffed up, softened and light orange in colour.
- In a large pot or pan heat the olive oil, and cook the garlic and onions until they are soft and translucent.
- Add the tin of of tomatoes, lentils, the grated zucchini and chopped mushrooms and cook gentle over a low heat.
- Add one or two table spoons of tomato paste depending on how tomato-ey you want the sauce.
- Let the sauce summer over a low heat for around an hour, or longer – the best sauce cooks for hours, but I never have that much time!
- Stir in your choice of herbs about five minutes before you are ready to serve, and serve with your favourite pasta.
Please note: this recipe uses Australian measurements and cooking temperatures, if you need to convert measurements or temperatures you can download my handy dandy kitchen conversion cheat sheet here.
You can add meat to this recipe if you like. 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.
This vegetarian bolognese sauce freezes really well, so make a double batch and stock one in the freezer for later!
What vegetarian meals do your kids love?
I first shared this post back in 2012 (which is why some of the comments have such old dates on them). This recipe is still a family favourite, so it was time for an update and reshare.