This red lentil Bolognese is a protein-packed, fiber-filled sauce that's also vegan, gluten-free, nut-free and oil-free. Serve this one-pot sauce over your favorite pasta pasta or veggie noodles for a tasty and hearty vegetarian meal.Jump to Recipe
This red lentil Bolognese checks all the boxes...
Whether you're vegetarian, vegan or just looking looking for a meatless option, this sauce is perfect for your pasta night!
What is Bolognese sauce?
Traditional Bolognese (also known as ragù alla Bolognese) is a meat-based sauce that originated in Bologna, Italy.
It is also made with tomatoes as well as aromatic vegetables such as carrots, onion and celery.
The traditional version also includes white wine, stock/broth and milk.
It is also traditionally cooked low and slow.
For this vegan version, not only did we ditch the meat but we also sped up the process so that the sauce could be ready in under an hour, making it perfect for weeknight dinners!
Ingredients you'll need
- Red Lentils - Low in fat but high in both fiber and protein, red lentils contain good amount of iron, folate and potassium as well as a slew of other vitamins and minerals. They also cook up quicker than green or brown lentils,
- Vegan Pinot Grigio - Check out Barnivore for some great vegan wine options
- Tomato Paste
- Canned Diced Tomatoes
- Canned Tomato Sauce
- Vegetable Broth (low sodium if desired)
- Italian Seasoning
How to make this vegan Bolognese - step by step.
Start by adding the celery, carrots, garlic and onion to a food processor.
Pulse until finely chopped but not pureed.
Add the veggie mixture, wine and salt to a 4-quart saucepan.
Cook over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the veggies have softened up and the wine has just about evaporated.
Next, stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.
Stir in the diced tomatoes (along with their juice), broth, tomato sauce, and Italian seasoning.
Bring to a boil.
Once boiling, add the lentils, cover and reduce the heat to a low simmer.
Cook covered for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils reach desired tenderness.
Before serving, season with salt to taste.
Ideas for serving
Bolognese is traditionally served with tagliatelle, but you can use any pasta of your choosing (gluten-free if needed).
It's also great with spiralized noodles, such as zucchini or sweet potato.
No matter what you serve it over, it's perfect topped off with some Parmesan cheese and/or fresh parsley.
If vegan or avoiding dairy, use store-bought Parmesan-style cheese or try our homemade vegan Parmesan.
You can also try using this red lentil Bolognese as the sauce layer in your favorite lasagna recipe.
- Red Lentils - You can swap the red lentils for green or brown instead. Take note that this will increase the cooking time as they take longer than the red ones. I prefer the red lentils in this recipe for their sweet flavor and creamier consistency; however, if you prefer a more earthy and robust flavor, you may want to use green or brown instead. They will also have a firmer texture in the sauce.
- Dry Lentils - If you prefer, you can use a 15-ounce can of cooked lentils. Just drain and rinse and add them after the sauce has been simmering for about 15 minutes after bringing to a boil.
- Onion - You can use shallot in place of the onion if preferred.
- Italian Seasoning - If you don't have any on hand, try a blend of parsley, basil and oregano.
Storing and reheating
Leftover sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
It can also be frozen for up to 6 months.
Just be sure to store it in an airtight container and fully thaw it in the refrigerator before reheating.
The sauce is best reheated on the stovetop in a covered pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed throughout.
Frequently asked questions
The lentils do not have to be soaked. However, some people say that soaking helps aid with digestion. Therefore, if you prefer, you can soak them if you desire for about 2-3 hours before you are going to make the sauce.
Red lentils typically take about 15-20 minutes to cook over a simmer. But in this recipe, we're cooking them a bit longer over a low simmer so that the flavors in the sauce have more time to infuse.
Red Lentil Bolognese
- 2 medium ribs of celery, cut into large pieces
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
- ¼ cup vegan Pinot Grigio
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt
- 6 oz can of tomato paste (use no salt added if preferred)
- 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes with juice (use no salt added if preferred)
- 15 oz can of tomato sauce (be sure to use an oil-free brand to keep this recipe oil free; use low sodium or no salt added if preferred)
- 2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 2 cups vegetable broth (be sure to use an oil-free brand of broth to keep this recipe oil-free, use low sodium if preferred)
- ¾ cup dry red lentils, rinsed and picked over
- Add the celery, carrots, garlic and onion to a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped but not pureed.
- Add the veggie mixture, wine and salt to a 4-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the veggies have softened up and the wine has just about evaporated.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 2-3 minutes until it gets dark in color, stirring frequently.
- Stir in the diced tomatoes (with juice), broth, tomato sauce, and Italian seasoning.
- Bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the lentils, cover and reduce the heat to a low simmer.
- Cook covered for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils reach desired tenderness, stirring occasionally.
- Before serving, season with additional salt to taste.
(Please refer to the post above for instructional photographs for this recipe)
This post originally appeared on Watch Learn Eat on December 21, 2019. It has been republished to reflect recipe, photo and content revisions.
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