This quick and easy lentil Bolognese is a vegan twist on the classic Italian meat sauce. Serve it with spaghetti squash or pasta!
Here's the deal.
You might not know it from reading my recipes, but I eat SO MANY red lentils.
Really, just an incredible amount of lentils.
Recently, I saw a recipe for a pasta sauce with red lentils, and I was SO EXCITED!
Red lentils in a pasta sauce sounded AMAZING!
Sadly, though, I cannot remember when or where I saw the recipe, so whoever you were-- thank you for the inspiration!
Right away, I started adding lentils to version after version of my favorite pasta sauce recipes, and finally decided on my favorite.
It also happened to be the fastest version.
Happy accidents, ya' know?
This lentil Bolognese is a vegan twist on the classic Italian Bolognese, and while it's not authentic (read: no meat), it is rich, flavorful, and hearty.
Making a Quick Bolognese
The reason this version of lentil Bolognese is so fast is that I opted for a pre-made tomato pasta sauce.
I tried other versions of the sauce, but this version won me over because I could start the sauce, then start cooking this Instant Pot Spaghetti Squash (or this roasted spaghetti squash), and everything would be finished at the same time.
What Kind of Pasta Sauce Should I Buy?
Try to buy a sauce without a lot of added sugar or flavoring added.
I recommend using an organic tomato basil pasta sauce.
My favorites are the organic pasta sauces from Aldi and Trader Joe's, but I also like Simple Truth (Kroger) and Great Value (Walmart) pasta sauce.
Is Any Vegan Parmesan Grateable?
If you're looking for a wedge of vegan Parmesan, Violife makes a vegan Parmesan that's grateable! (They sell it at my local Whole Foods.)
You can also skip the Parmesan completely, but I think it adds a little oomph to the sauce.
Keep in mind that if you add a dairy-based Parmesan to this sauce, it's no longer vegan! But it's still delicious with regular Parmesan!
Should I Serve Lentil Bolognese with Pasta or Spaghetti Squash?
But personally, I prefer it with spaghetti squash.
First of all, I think the flavors go really well together!
But also, I think that lentil Bolognese and spaghetti squash are just made for one another.
On its own, I find spaghetti squash needs a little... something.
It's delicious, but spaghetti squash definitely doesn't fill me up the way actual spaghetti does.
On the other hand, this lentil Bolognese is HEARTY.
It's rich, filling, and I prefer to serve it with the light and healthy spaghetti squash instead of pasta.
But that's just my preference-- serve it with whichever you love most!
How Do You Make Ribboned Carrots?
This recipe uses a ribboned carrot, and while it would be a little faster to dice the carrot, the ribboned carrot makes the sauce taste better.
It's sweeter this way.
If you're not used to ribboning vegetables, I think the easiest way to do it is to use a vegetable peeler or a vegetable spiralizer.
I use this Cuisinart vegetable peeler.
How to Make Lentil Bolognese
Start by cooking an onion with some smoked paprika, red chili flakes, and chili powder.
When the onion is softened and the spices are fragrant, add the carrot.
Toss the carrots into the onion mixture, and then add the red lentils.
Stir the lentils into the vegetables.
Next, add the tomato sauce and two cups of water.
Bring the sauce to a boil, and then cover the pan.
Simmer the lentil Bolognese until the lentils are cooked through and the sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes.
Serve your lentil Bolognese right away, or save it for another day.
I have a several batches frozen for later!
Looking for a more meaty Bolognese? Try this Instant Pot Bolognese from Striped Spatula
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- ½ teaspoon red chili flakes Double for a spicier sauce
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 carrot, ribboned
- 1 cup red lentils (rinse and check for pebbles)
- 24 ounce jar tomato sauce (pasta sauce) I used tomato basil pasta sauce
- 2 cups water
- To Serve: spaghetti squash or pasta
- To Serve: Parmesan or vegan Parmesan
- Heat oil in a large pan or wok over medium-high heat.
- When the oil is hot and begins to ripple, add onions, red chili flakes, chili powder, and smoked paprika. Sauté 3-4 minutes, until the spices are fragrant and the onions are translucent.
- Add carrots, sauté 1-2 minutes.
- Add lentils and stir. Add tomato sauce and water. Bring to a boil, then cover pan and reduce heat to medium-low.
- Simmer until most (but not all) of the water has absorbed and the lentils soften, about 15 minutes.
- Serve with spaghetti squash or pasta, and top with Parmesan (vegan or dairy).
- Leftovers:Store leftovers in the fridge, and use within 3-4 days.Make Ahead and Freeze:Let lentils cool to room temperature, and freeze for up to 6 months.