Lentil Bolognese

If you’re not familiar with lentils, don’t fret! They’re easy to cook with, they take on the flavors of the dish you’re cooking and are packed with nutrition.

In this recipe, I swapped out ground meat for lentils to make a vegetarian version of classic Bolognese sauce. It’s full of tomatoes, garlic, fresh and dried Italian herbs and has loads of vegetables. It’s delicious served over whole grain spaghetti or zucchini noodles.


What makes lentils so good for you?

Here are a few of the nutrients lentils contain:

  • Fiber
  • Protein
  • B vitamins
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Potassium
  • Iron

Why are lentils so popular?

They make a great plant-based alternative to meat in many recipes, like soups, stews, casseroles and ground meat (such as in taco meat).

They are similar to beans in texture and nutritional value and can be purchased canned or dried. They come fully cooked in the can and take about 30 minutes to cook from dry (with no soaking time!).

There are several varieties of lentils. The most popular and easy-to-find are brown, green, yellow and red. You can use any of these options in the dishes you cook; they each have a slightly unique flavor and texture but are generally interchangeable.

What is your favorite way to cook with lentils?

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Lentil Bolognese

  • Author: Julie Andrews
  • Prep Time: 15-20 mins
  • Cook Time: 40-45 mins
  • Total Time: 55 mins – 1 hr 5 mins
  • Yield: Serves 6 1x
  • Category: Entree
  • Method: Stove-Top
  • Cuisine: Italian, American


Homemade lentil bolognese with Italian herbs, dry red wine and tomatoes served over whole grain spaghetti.


  • 12 ounces whole grain spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium stalks celery, diced
  • 34 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • ½ cup dry red wine (optional)
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups unsalted vegetable stock
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large stove-top casserole dish or Dutch oven to medium. Add the onion, carrots and celery and cook 5-6 minutes or until soft. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste and Italian seasoning and sauté 30-60 seconds or until fragrant.
  3. Add the red wine (if using) and bring to a simmer until the wine has evaporated. Add the crushed tomatoes, stock and lentils to the pot and bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Stir it the salt, black pepper, sugar and fresh basil. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.


Cooking Tip: Use green or red lentils. Swap whole grain pasta for zucchini noodles.

Substitution Tip: Swap in 1-pound ground turkey instead of lentils for a meaty version. Saute the turkey with the vegetables, then continue on with the recipe (minus the lentils) but with only 1 1/2 cups stock instead of 3.

Topping Ideas: Top with chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan.

Nutrition Tip: For a lower sodium version, choose no added salt tomato paste and crushed tomatoes.


  • Serving Size: 1/6 of recipe
  • Calories: 408
  • Sugar: 13g
  • Sodium: 479mg
  • Fat: 6g
  • Saturated Fat: 1g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 5g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 74g
  • Fiber: 18g
  • Protein: 17g
  • Cholesterol: 0g

Keywords: bolognese, tomato sauce, vegan, vegetarian, plant-based