Lentil Veggie Bolognese.
Forgive me for serving you lentil bolognese in spring!
I promise it will be worth it.
It is the weirdest thing ever to me that I’m sharing a lentil bolognese recipe with you in May. To me, this is a serious fall or winter meal. And I am such a seasonal cook and eater and by now, I’d be really starting to bring out all the early summer recipes.
And while this isn’t a recipe I’d make weekly in the warmer months, it is still a fantastic recipe that can be made year round! I figured that while we’re still quarantining at home and now with a possible meat shortage looming, there could not be a better time to share this recipe. Plus, it’s an ideal pantry meal.
If you’re familiar with our favorite bolognese recipe from The Pretty Dish, this is a version of that. But an all veggie version! YES. No meat whatsoever.
My original version already has mushrooms in it, which is one of the reasons I think we all love it so much – it is so hearty! I added some more veggies here and removed the meat and it is just as good. Maybe better?!
It’s not a simple recipe. In fact, it’s not really simplified whatsoever! But it’s not difficult either and it doesn’t take a super long time.
I would give yourself around an hour to make this and frankly gets better as it sits. Most of it is hands off time while you wait for it to simmer and all those flavors to develop.
Like a traditional bolognese, it’s hearty and rich and wonderful. It’s still made with red wine (of course!) and even a splash of cream. The filling would totally work in lasagna too.
Okay, so it’s absolutely to die for.
It’s fabulous over pasta of course, really good over zucchini noodles and surprising good over (regular or cauliflower) rice.
I find it to be a very versatile dish! And it’s easily one of the most made recipes in my kitchen. If not theeee most made.
Now, I must tell you the best part of this recipe.
If you’ve been lurking around this blog for the last decade plus, you know that Eddie is a major carnivore. He likes/enjoys/wants meat at every single meal. If there isn’t meat, he hopes there are eggs. A true meat and potatoes guy.
And on top of that… you probably also know that I like to trick him into eating things that he thinks he doesn’t like. Not in a MEAN way, of course, but this is well documented here on the blog. Like how he swore he didn’t like ricotta but now some of his favorite dishes use ricotta. That sort of thing.
All rambles aside, I made this one day for dinner, testing it out. I tossed the pasta noodles right into the sauce. And I covered it and let it simmer for a little until Eddie got home. I wondered if he would be able to tell that it was a meatless meal. Then I started putting the kids to bed and totally forgot about it.
By the time I remembered, I had watched him eat two plates. It wasn’t until an hour later when I told him. He.was.stunned. First, I think he thought that I fed him something weird. Then, his mind was blown that it was actually meatless.
I am here to tell you that it is nearly impossible to tell that this is a meatless bolognese. If he didn’t know? Wow. I don’t know who will!
There is so much texture. So much flavor!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 sweet onion diced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms chopped
- 2 medium zucchini squash, diced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 (14 ounce) cans cooked lentils, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1 (14 ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
- ⅓ cup half and half
- Heat a large pot over medium heat and add the olive oil.
- Add in the onions with the salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add in the garlic and mushrooms. Stir and cook for another 5 or 6 minutes, until the mushrooms soften.
- Stir in the zucchini and cook for 5 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste, dried basil, oregano, pepper flakes and brown sugar. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the lentils and stir to combine.
- Add in the wine and tomatoes. Stir in the parmesan and half and half. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover, cooking for at least 20 minutes (or even longer if you wish!). Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. This is important! Taste and season to your liking! It will differ depending on the brand of tomatoes you use, etc.
- You can make this ahead of time. It reheats wonderfully. You can also freeze it for up to 6 months!
- Serve with your favorite pasta.
Did you make this recipe?
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I appreciate you so much!
This is the epitome of comfort food.
34 Comments on “Lentil Veggie Bolognese.”
Don’t feel too bad- it IS going to snow here this weekend. This sounds amazing and I also want to trick my husband into thinking he’s eating meat! Definitely making this on Saturday!
ugh so true! can’t believe it’s going to snow!
Jessica – Thank you so much for providing this recipe. And, so very thoughtful of you to give us a new vegetarian meal! I can’t wait to try it. It looks amazing!
thank you donna!
Thanks for the vegetarian meal! Is there anything I can substitute for the mushrooms?
i would probably do another zucchini and maybe a bell pepper? it doesn’t exactly replicate the meaty texture, but it should def work! :)
I used eggplant instead of mushrooms and it was delicious!
Could you use dry lentils? I have a bag I’ve been trying to find recipes for!
you can definitely use dry! just soak and cook them ahead of time – don’t put them in here dry. once they are cooked, use about 2.5 to 3 cups!
I’m in the same boat… You probably want to use green or brown lentils here for the texture. Yellow or red lentils go soft when cooked and are better for things like puréed soups. Can’t wait to try this one!
Thank you!! Came to the comments hoping someone said what kind of dry lentils to use :)
Looks fantastic! Would love to keep it vegan. What do you think about a nut milk creamer instead of half and half? Think it would work? Thanks so much!
yes absolutely!! and use some nutritional yeast in place of the parm :)
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Thank you so much for such a delicious vegetarian recipe. I didn’t have half and half and it was just fine without it. I always trust your recipes. They turn out great every single time. Definitely a keeper. Thank you!
thank you so much kristen!
I love a good lentil bolognese sauce! I have been making one that uses red lentils for years – shorter cook time so I just simmer the uncooked lentils right in the sauce part-way through, but I have some green lentils on hand now so will have to try your version! Sometimes I add in chopped or shredded carrot too. I 100% agree with you one the versatility of this dish – I sometimes just warm up a cup and eat it straight up with a spoon for lunch. And speaking of ricotta, I bet this would be fab with a few dollops added on top!
love that! thanks jenni!
We LOVED THIS! I served it over zucchini noodles. I also don’t drink, but I had a bottle of sparkling red apple cider, so I used that in place of the red wine. Seemed to work just fine. We did think it needed a little more salt and added red pepper flakes.
(and this isn’t a diss to the recipe, Jessica told us this “Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed. This is important! Taste and season to your liking! It will differ depending on the brand of tomatoes you use, etc.”)
I also used fire roasted tomatoes for a little more smokiness. I am so pumped for the leftovers today! Might try them on sweet potato noodles!!
yay i’m so glad!
Maybe I did something wrong – could dicing the zucchini very small affect the flavor?
Either way, so disappointed. My husband hates tomato sauce, but I was like, hey, so does Jessica, maybe this will be one of those rare recipes he actually enjoys. Well, no such luck. He couldn’t even finish his plate. It was just like… meh.
This may be your first recipe I’m not in love with :(
We make the favorite bolognese from The Pretty Dish all the time so I knew we had to try this. It is just as good and you’re right, you really can’t tell that there is no meat. I think we will alternate this with the book recipe to eat less meat now. 10 stars if we could.
Made it tonight and loved it more than the original!!
This is the best meal I made during our shelter in place so far, hands down. And I live in L.A.
This was so yummy! My daughter is becoming vegetarian so I’m trying out new dishes to support her. She and I loved it, but so did my carnivorous husband and son! So tasty and filling. I swapped the zucchini for small-diced carrots (as we’re not big zucchini fans)…delicious. Thank you!
This is one of our favorites!! While we LOVE the favorite bolognese in TPD, we try to eat less meat and this is the perfect alternative. I make a big pot of this, share it with my vegan daughter (no cheese and cream), make a pan of lasagna, and still have enough to have another dinner. It is so, so good!
I finally made this recipe and OMG. I actually halved it because I didn’t think I’d want to eat bolognese for the next 5 nights but I might be wrong on that part. It’s SO GOOD. DAMN. YES.
This looks wonderful! Is there something I could use in place of zucchini? Not much of a fan. Thanks!
Amazing!!! Added 2 tsp of sugar. Perfection.
Ok, this was insanely good. And I don’t generally like vegetables. It tasted like the best pizza sauce I ever ate. High praise. No 1/2 + 1/2, subbed greek yogurt + milk. Dreaming Tree Cabernet sauvignon. Served over corkscrew pasta with more cheese. Drool.
Love this recipe! I eat a plant based diet so I just take out the cream and my non-plant based husband really enjoys it too. I’ve made this countless times but I froze some for postpartum and it was perfect! Healthy and filling :)
Pronto las preparae en una lasagña ya que no me esta gustando tanto las carnes gracias por compartir tus recetas
This was so good! And super flexible. I skipped the wine and cream and added an extra zucchini. I used dry red lentils instead of canned (they cook in the 20 min simmer time!) and just added in 1 cup of water during the boil. So filling and hearty!
i hate mushrooms and so does my husband but i took a chance on this recipe and it’s a fave of ours! we make it at least once a month (which is a lot for us since we like to try new recipes). thank you!