Vegetarian Lentil Bolognese
By Katie Kathan, RD, LDN
Living with a carnivore who’s not really a fan of simply put “plants”, can be a real challenge. This Lentil Bolognese recipe is a creative and tasty way to sneak in high fiber, nutrient dense non-meat foods for picky eaters or those new to vegetarian meals. It’s hearty yet simple to make, inexpensive and boasts an excellent nutrient profile!
Lentils are a great source of filling protein and fiber, with 1 cup providing 50% of your daily recommendation of fiber and 30% of protein. They’re also a good source of minerals commonly lacking in American’s diets like potassium, iron, folate and phosphorus, which help regulate blood pressure, form red blood cells needed to provide oxygen throughout the body, improve bone density and repair damaged tissues and cells. Additionally, lentils are high in a type of phytonutrient called polyphenols which serve plants as a protective barrier to predators and provide us with antioxidants. These antioxidants have an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effect in humans, helping to prevent chronic illnesses later in life.
There are many types and colors of lentils all used for different dishes, but for this recipe I like to use brown lentils. They’re mild in flavor and still have a bite after cooking which makes this dish seem like it has meat.
You can use pre-cooked or dry lentils. If you use dry, first soak the lentils overnight in water on the counter and then rinse before cooking. This will help wash away any impurities and reduce the lectins or anti-nutrients naturally found on the lentils which can cause digestive issues overtime. Next, cover the lentils in a pot with water, bring to a boil and then simmer until soft (about 20-30 minutes).
Hearty Lentil Bolognese with Pappardelle
Simple and flavor-filled vegetarian sauce that goes great over pasta, spaghetti squash, potatoes, rice or as a dip!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
2 cups cooked lentils (see above instructions if cooking from dry)
1- 28oz canned tomatoes (whatever style you prefer- diced, whole, crushed…)
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 Tbsp Olive Oil
Additional optional vegetables: 1 small onion diced, chopped zucchini, eggplant, sweet peppers
2 Tbsp dried herbs and spices of choice (basil, oregano, parsley, fennel seed, thyme, rosemary)
1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper (optional)
Salt and Black Pepper to taste
½ cup Parmesan, shredded or shaved
1 bunch fresh herbs, chopped for garnish (optional)
1 pound pasta of choice (I prefer pappardelle for this recipe)
Heat olive oil in a deep skillet over medium-high heat and begin boiling water for pasta in a separate large pot seasoned with salt.
Once pan is evenly heated, add cooked lentils, and sauté until evenly coated in olive oil (about 3 minutes).
Next, add any additional vegetables to pan and sauté until cooked down (about 5 minutes).
Then reduce heat to medium and add minced garlic and sauté until aromatic and slightly caramelized. Stir constantly (about 1 minute).
Stir in dried herbs, spices, crushed red pepper and canned tomatoes and season with salt and black pepper.
Cover skillet and bring to a light boil, then reduce to a simmer (about 15 minutes). Cook and drain the pasta during this time.
Stir in ¾ of the parmesan and then serve over pasta and garnish with fresh herbs and remaining parmesan cheese.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated without optional ingredients.