Vegan Lentil Bolognese
Hearty vegan lentil bolognese is a comforting and wholesome dinner. Serve it over spaghetti squash boats or your favorite pasta. This plant based recipe is easy to make naturally vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free but doesn’t skimp on flavor. This lentil bolognese is chock full of all those irresistible Italian flavors.
Pasta night is a weekly thing at our house. Like most kids, mine love pasta. If I ask what they would like for dinner, they almost always say spaghetti. Now that fall has rolled around I’ve been drawn to all the different varieties of beautiful squash. It had been awhile since I had made spaghetti squash, so I picked up a couple at the market this week. My daughter had so much fun scooping out the spaghetti squash seeds (just like a pumpkin!), cooking the squash with me and watching it “magically” turn into spaghetti. Spaghetti squash truly is a fun food to cook and the result is a completely natural and unprocessed spaghetti. Since spaghetti squash is a bit lighter than pasta, I wanted a heartier sauce. Enter lentil bolognese.
Bolognese sauce traditionally is a ground meat based sauce. One of my favorite plant-based protein sources is the wonderful lentil. Its mild flavor and hearty texture makes it the perfect substitute for meat in this vegetarian bolognese. I keep a bag of dried French green lentils in my pantry at all times, so I cooked a batch before making this recipe. If you would like a lentil shortcut, you can absolutely use the steamed lentils found in the refrigerated section of some grocery stores like Trader Joe’s. There’s no shame in taking shortcuts here and there – we’re all just doing our best.
This lentil bolognese sauce is packed with nutritious ingredients. Onion, garlic, carrots, celery, mushrooms, and of course lentils all go into this meaty but meatless sauce. It was so tasty I couldn’t resist eating some it straight from the pan. Even my 6 year old peered into the pan and said, “that looks yummy!” I wasn’t sure how my littles would react to this unconventional pasta night, but I was happily surprised. When at dinnertime I said I had already eaten some of mine earlier in the day, my little love said, “I can see why! This is so yummy!” That’s what I call success, folks.
You can make your lentil bolognese spaghetti squash boats cheesy, or not. It’s totally up to you. If you would like this meal to be completely vegan, just leave the cheese off or use a dairy free mozzarella. Speaking of plant based foods, you must pick up a copy of Dr. Greger’s new book, How Not To Die. It’s life changing in the best possible way. Maybe I’ll write a review here when I’m done with the book.
Want to skip the spaghetti squash? No problem! This lentil bolognese is delicious used any way you would use an Italian red sauce. Over regular pasta, in a lasagna, or just scooped up with a hunk of crusty bread. There’s no wrong way to eat this dreamy sauce.
Lentil Bolognese with Spaghetti Squash
- 2 small spaghetti squash
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup crimini mushrooms, diced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 24 oz. crushed tomatoes (I used a jar or Bionaturae)
- 1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 ½ cups cooked French green lentils
- salt to taste
- fresh basil for garnish
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (vegan, if desired)
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Place cut side up on a large rimmed baking sheet, and bake 35-45 minutes, until tender. Cool. Use two forks to scratch up the squash to create “noodles” inside the squash “boats.”
- Meanwhile, make the lentil bolognese. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until vegetables soften, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, mushrooms, oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes, and sauté until the mushrooms begin to soften. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir to combine. Add lentils and simmer the sauce 20 minutes, until sauce has thickened and all the vegetables are tender. Season to taste with salt.
- Spoon the lentil bolognese over the spaghetti squash noodles. Sprinkle cheese over the top and place under the broiler until cheese is bubbly. Garnish with fresh basil.