Lentil Bolognese Recipe

Lentil Bolognese Recipe

Turn the simple ingredients in your cupboard into vegan magic with this Lentil Bolognese recipe. It’s a comforting and hearty meal made with budget-friendly and wholesome ingredients. Just like my Vegan Caramelized Onion Pasta and Italian White Bean and Pasta Stew, this healthy vegan bolognese requires a short list of ingredients but yields big, gourmet flavors. A mix of red lentils and walnuts add a rich body while tomato paste and canned tomatoes load it with umami, just like the Italian classic. Best of all, it’s naturally vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free!

Key Takeaways:

  • Lentil Bolognese is a delicious and nutritious alternative to traditional meat-based Bolognese sauce.
  • This recipe is easy to make, budget-friendly, and packed with flavor.
  • It is a great option for vegans, vegetarians, or anyone looking to incorporate more plant-based meals into their diet.
  • The combination of red lentils, walnuts, tomato paste, and canned tomatoes creates a rich and umami-packed sauce.
  • This Lentil Bolognese recipe is naturally vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free.

What is Bolognese?

Bolognese is an Italian meat sauce that originated in Bologna, Italy. It is a beloved staple in Italian cuisine and a classic favorite around the world. The traditional Bolognese recipe consists of simmering a combination of soffritto vegetables (carrots, onion, and celery), tomatoes, wine, broth, ground meat, and often milk for 2 to 3 hours. This slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld together, resulting in a rich and hearty sauce that is typically served over long and wide pasta noodles.

The key components of a traditional Bolognese sauce include:

  • Soffritto vegetables: A mixture of finely chopped carrots, onions, and celery, sautéed in olive oil until aromatic.
  • Tomatoes: Both tomato paste and crushed tomatoes are used to provide a robust tomato flavor.
  • Wine: Red wine is commonly added to enhance the depth and richness of the sauce.
  • Broth: Vegetable or meat broth is used to create a flavorful base.
  • Ground meat: Ground beef, pork, or a combination of both is traditionally used, adding meatiness to the sauce.
  • Milk: Some recipes call for a small amount of milk or cream to balance the acidity of the tomatoes.

The result is a savory and aromatic sauce that is incredibly versatile and pairs well with various pasta shapes. Bolognese sauce is known for its comforting and hearty nature, making it a well-loved choice for pasta lovers all over the world.

“Bolognese sauce is the true representation of Italy’s rich culinary heritage. Its flavors and textures have made it a global favorite.” – Chef Francesco Rossi

Lentil Bolognese Ingredients

In order to prepare this delicious Lentil Bolognese, you will need the following ingredients:

  • Red lentils: These lentils are the star of the dish, providing a meaty texture and a nutritional boost.
  • Tomato paste: A rich and concentrated tomato flavor will be achieved thanks to the tomato paste.
  • Red wine (optional): For an extra layer of depth and richness, you can add red wine to the sauce.
  • Walnuts: Adding walnuts will contribute texture and a nutty flavor to the Bolognese.
  • Crushed tomatoes: Alongside the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes will enhance the tomato profile of the sauce.
  • Balsamic vinegar: A touch of acidity and sweetness can be achieved by incorporating balsamic vinegar.
  • Pasta: Don’t forget the pasta! It is the perfect canvas to complement the Lentil Bolognese sauce.

How to Make Lentil Bolognese

Creating a delicious Vegan Lentil Bolognese is easier than you think. Follow these simple instructions to master this flavorful recipe:


  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup red wine (optional)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 can (14 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Here is a step-by-step guide on how to make this delicious Lentil Bolognese:

  1. Start by soaking the red lentils in water for 30 minutes. This will help them cook faster and evenly.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, minced garlic, carrot, and celery. Sauté until the vegetables start to soften and caramelize.
  3. Add the tomato paste to the skillet and cook for a few minutes until it darkens in color. This will enhance the depth of flavor.
  4. If using red wine, carefully deglaze the pan by pouring it into the skillet. Stir well to incorporate the flavors.
  5. Drain the soaked lentils and add them to the skillet, along with the chopped walnuts and vegetable broth. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  6. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce for about 20-25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and cooked through.
  7. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, dried basil, and dried oregano. Continue simmering for another 10 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.
  8. Season the Lentil Bolognese with salt and pepper to taste. Feel free to adjust the seasonings according to your preference.

Your flavorful Lentil Bolognese is now ready to be enjoyed with your choice of pasta or other accompanying dishes. Bon appétit!

Recipe Summary:

Ingredient Quantity
Red lentils 1 cup
Olive oil 2 tablespoons
Onion, finely chopped 1
Garlic, minced 2 cloves
Carrot, finely chopped 1
Celery stalk, finely chopped 1
Tomato paste 2 tablespoons
Red wine (optional) 1/4 cup
Walnuts, finely chopped 1/2 cup
Crushed tomatoes 1 can (14 ounces)
Vegetable broth 1 cup
Dried basil 1 teaspoon
Dried oregano 1 teaspoon
Salt To taste
Pepper To taste

Serving Lentil Bolognese

Once you’ve made a delicious batch of Lentil Bolognese, it’s time to think about how to serve it. There are so many options to choose from, whether you want to stick with traditional pasta or explore other creative pairings. Here are some serving suggestions to elevate your Lentil Bolognese experience:

Pasta Pairing

Lentil Bolognese is a versatile sauce that pairs well with a variety of pasta shapes. Consider serving it with:

  • Tagliatelle
  • Rigatoni
  • Pappardelle

If you’re looking for a lighter option, try serving Lentil Bolognese over zucchini noodles, also known as zoodles. This adds a fresh and nutritious twist to the dish.

Vegetarian Options

While Lentil Bolognese is already vegetarian-friendly, you can further enhance its flavor and nutritional profile by exploring additional vegetarian options. Here are a few ideas:

  • Pair it with gnocchi for a hearty and comforting meal.
  • Serve it over polenta, a creamy and satisfying alternative to pasta.
  • Try it with roasted or mashed potatoes for a twist on classic comfort food.

Gluten-Free Options

If you or your guests have a gluten intolerance or follow a gluten-free diet, there are plenty of ways to enjoy Lentil Bolognese without compromising taste or texture. Here are some gluten-free alternatives:

  • Opt for gluten-free pasta made from rice, corn, or quinoa.
  • Explore gluten-free alternatives like lentil or chickpea pasta.
  • Consider using spaghetti squash as a gluten-free pasta replacement.

To add a finishing touch to your Lentil Bolognese, garnish it with fresh basil or parsley for a burst of freshness. For a cheesy flavor, sprinkle grated Parmesan or nutritional yeast on top. These simple touches can elevate the dish and make it even more enjoyable.

Serving Lentil Bolognese with different pasta options, exploring vegetarian alternatives, and accommodating gluten-free needs ensure that everyone can savor this delicious and versatile sauce. Get creative and tailor the serving to your preference and dietary requirements.

Tips for Making Lentil Bolognese

To make the best Lentil Bolognese, it’s important to pay attention to a few key cooking tips. These tips will help you achieve a delicious and satisfying result every time.

  1. Soak the lentils: Before cooking the lentils, it’s recommended to soak them in water for about 30 minutes. This will help to soften them and reduce the cooking time, allowing you to enjoy your Lentil Bolognese sooner.
  2. Chop the walnuts finely: To ensure that the walnuts blend well into the sauce and add a pleasant nutty flavor, it’s best to chop them finely before adding them to the recipe.
  3. Use quality ingredients: The flavor of your Lentil Bolognese will greatly depend on the quality of the ingredients you use. Opt for high-quality tomato paste, preferably from a tube, and good-quality canned tomatoes to enhance the taste of the sauce.
  4. Adjust the seasonings: Seasonings are key to any dish, and Lentil Bolognese is no exception. Taste the sauce as it simmers and adjust the seasonings to your preference. Add salt, pepper, and any other herbs or spices that you like to enhance the flavor and make it your own.

By following these cooking tips, you’ll be able to create a fantastic Lentil Bolognese that is flavorful, hearty, and satisfying. So go ahead and put these tips to use in your next batch of Lentil Bolognese!


Lentil Bolognese is a delicious and nutritious alternative to traditional meat-based Bolognese sauce. Whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or simply looking to incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet, this Lentil Bolognese recipe is a great option. It’s easy to make, budget-friendly, and packed with flavor.

This hearty vegan dish provides a rich and satisfying flavor experience, with the lentils and walnuts adding a meaty texture and the combination of tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and red wine creating a depth of umami flavors. The sauce pairs perfectly with a variety of pasta shapes, allowing you to customize your meals to your taste.

By choosing Lentil Bolognese, you can enjoy the rich flavors and comforting textures of a classic Bolognese sauce while also benefiting from the nutritional content of lentils and the health advantages of a plant-based meal. So why not give this recipe a try? It’s a tasty and fulfilling way to enjoy a satisfying meal without the need for meat.


Is Lentil Bolognese a vegan recipe?

Yes, Lentil Bolognese is a vegan recipe. It does not contain any animal products and is free from gluten and soy.

Can Lentil Bolognese be made gluten-free?

Yes, Lentil Bolognese can be made gluten-free by using gluten-free pasta or serving it over zucchini noodles.

How long does it take to cook Lentil Bolognese?

Lentil Bolognese typically takes about 45 minutes to cook, including the time to soak the lentils.

Can I freeze Lentil Bolognese?

Yes, Lentil Bolognese can be frozen for up to 3 months. Simply let it cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container or freezer bag.

Can I use other types of lentils for this recipe?

While red lentils are recommended for their meaty texture, you can use other types of lentils such as green or brown lentils. Just note that the cooking time may vary.

Can I omit the wine in the recipe?

Yes, the red wine is optional. If you prefer not to use wine, you can simply skip that step or add a bit of vegetable broth for extra flavor.

Can I customize the spices in the recipe?

Absolutely! Feel free to adjust the seasonings according to your taste preferences. You can add more herbs, spices, or even chili flakes to spice things up.

What can I serve Lentil Bolognese with?

Lentil Bolognese can be served with a variety of pasta shapes, such as tagliatelle, rigatoni, or pappardelle. It also pairs well with gnocchi, polenta, or potatoes.

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