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This easy lentil bolognese recipe is a quick weeknight meal that just so happens to be vegan and gluten free. It's filled with flavor and a great way to switch up pasta, plus it comes together in under 30 minutes!
Turns out, I'm a huge fan of lentil bolognese! Ok so I already knew I was, and I already knew it was incredibly easy to prepare, but I really like it. The texture of the lentils does a great job at mimicking meat--and include protein--so it really is a complete meal.
Why you'll love this lentil bolognese
- It's vegan AND gluten free, so anyone can enjoy it
- It comes together in under 30 minutes, making it a quick weeknight dinner
- The flavor is incredible and it's a great way to sneak protein into a vegetarian dish
- Lentils: The recipe calls for green or brown lentils because those are going to provide the best texture in this dish. You should be able to find them in the Indian food aisle, or near the rice and beans.
- Mushrooms: White or baby bella work best.
- Diced tomatoes: I always prefer fire roasted diced tomatoes because they have more flavor, but you can use whatever is in your pantry.
- Pasta sauce: Use your favorite kind! I used an arrabbiata sauce for a little extra heat, but any sauce will work.
- Pasta: Again, use what you have. If you want to keep this recipe gluten free, opt for a gluten free pasta.
Step 1: Cook the pasta. This part is easy--just cook pasta over the stovetop as you normally would.
Step 2: Sauté the vegetables. Don't worry, this is easy too! Start by sautéing the onion, garlic, mushrooms, and spices until they're soft. The mushrooms help to add a little more texture and nutrition to this dish, so don't omit them! If you hate mushrooms, use shredded carrots instead.
Step 3: Make the sauce. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, lentils, and water and stir so that everything is mixed together. For the diced tomatoes, don't drain out any of the liquid; instead, pour the entire can into the skillet. Bring the bolognese to a simmer and simmer for approximately 25 minutes, stirring occasionally until the lentils are cooked. If it seems too thick, add an additional 1/4 cup of water.
Make sure to do a taste test before serving! I used arrabbiata sauce (spicy tomato sauce) and the 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, which I thought was the perfect amount of flavor. If you use a more traditional sauce and want to add more spice, add more red pepper flakes. Or, omit the spice altogether and add some chopped fresh basil.
FAQs and Expert Tips
Can I substitute red lentils?
I wouldn't, and here's why. Though red lentils may seem quite similar to green and brown, they're actually going to provide an entirely different texture because they fall apart when cooked, therefore creating a mushier texture. The green or brown lentils will actually have a little bit of a bite to them--they'll be cooked of course, but certainly not mushy.
How should I store this?
Be sure to store any leftover pasta in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Can you freeze bolognese?
Yep! If you want to make this ahead and store it in the freezer, wait until it comes to room temperature, then transfer it to a plastic freezer-safe bag and freeze it for up to 3 months.
- To reheat: invert the plastic bag and dump the bolognese into a large pot or dutch oven. Add 3/4 cup water, then bring mixture to a simmer. Place a lid on top, and simmer it for 25-30 minutes until it's completely thawed.
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Lentil Bolognese Recipe (vegan + gluten free)
- .75 lb. favorite gluten free pasta
- 1/2 cup yellow onion diced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup white mushrooms diced
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 14 oz. fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 24 oz. favorite pasta sauce*
- 1 cup lentils (green or brown) rinsed
- 2 cups water or more (see notes)
- Cook the pasta over the stove as you normally would.
- In a large skillet, add the onion, garlic, mushrooms, oregano, red pepper, salt and pepper, along with 1 tbsp olive oil, and sauté for 3-5 minutes until the onion and mushrooms are soft.
- Next, add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, lentils and water and stir to combine. Place a lid on the skillet, bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer it for 18-25 minutes, or until lentils are cooked, stirring occasionally.
- Serve lentil bolognese over pasta, sprinkle with additional red pepper flakes (+ parmesan cheese if not vegan) and enjoy!