Lentil Bolognese

September 19, 2016

Lentil Bolognese

Bolognese sauce is a serious thing. As you may or may not know there’s only one true and authentic recipe for bolognese sauce — that the Italian Academy of Cuisine recorded and deposited with the Bologna Chamber of Commerce in Italy.
So it’s not like you can improvise and make your own bolognese sauce.
Or worse make a VEGETARIAN/VEGAN bolognese sauce. The horror!

Lentil Bolognese

Which is exactly what I did.
Meatless meat sauce.
Italians would not be pleased.
A few in Bologna are probably hyperventilating just at the thought.
And I’m pretty sure some are even considering the possibility of boycotting my blog once and for all.
But yes, I went there.

Lentil Bolognese

Truth to be told, lentils actually make for a great meat substitute — they mimic the texture of beef crumbles pretty well and bring satisfying heartiness to the rich tomato sauce.
The flavor and the texture are AMAZING.
It’s seriously something you want to try. It’s a “I’m not kidding, this is totally awesome!” kind of thing.

Lentil Bolognese

And you know what’s even better?
That this recipe comes together in 30 minutes flat.
That’s huge!
Just think: A flavorful, hearty, and fiber-rich dinner on the table in half an hour.
If this meatless bolognese is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

Lentil Bolognese                                                                                                                                        Print this recipe!

A couple of notes. This is even better if you can make the sauce the night before and leave it in a pan for all the flavours to be absorbed. Freeze leftovers for later.

Serves 4

½ cup / 3.5 oz / 100 gr green lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 (28 oz / 800 gr) can diced tomatoes, (I used Muir Glen)
1 glass of red wine
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fine grain salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper


In a large saucepan combine lentils and 2 cups of water.
Bring to a rapid boil over medium-high heat, reduce to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered for about 20 to 25 minutes. Add water as needed to make sure lentils are covered.
Lentils will vary in their cooking times depending on their variety and age so make sure to check the package. In addition, lentils will cook with the sauce so it’s better to err on the side of undercooking than overcooking.
Once cooked, drain, and transfer to the bowl of a food processor (or blender). Pulse a couple of times to make a coarse puree. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, and carrot and sauté for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.
Add diced tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Add red wine and cook for 5 further minutes.
Add pureed lentils, give a good stir, and cook over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Take a taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
If the sauce looks too dry, add more water however keep in mind that bolognese is not meant to be 'saucy'.
Remove from the heat, add remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and oregano.
Serve over your favorite pasta (it’s great over zoodles) or eat by the spoonful.

Nutrition facts

One serving yields 176 calories, 7 grams of fat, 23 grams of carbs, and 6 grams of protein.


  1. No, YOU DID NOT! No, YOU DID NOT... yes, you did!


    heck , I love my mushroom Bolognese, and now I am intrigued about the use of lentils... very creative indeed... on zoodles, on spaghetti squash... why not?

    I am for an open mind! and would dig in for sure!

  2. Oh the horror - can't wait to try this out, I love lentils and I love bolognese so why not together!?!

  3. This is GENIUS! Lentils are so hearty and they totally bulk up this bolognese :)

  4. Hahah the story leading up to this recipe is the best. This looks great, Mike!

  5. I couldn't agree more, my friend - Lentils sure are a pretty amazing stand in for beef! And, I'm not Italian and I have no problem with this concoction - in fact, I think it's pretty darn genius!

  6. Meat lovers might have a problem but I'm all for it. Beef has never really been my thing so I'm up for a substitute! Plus with the cook time of 30 mins you can't really complain.

    H. Bowden

  7. I am very excited about this recipe! It sounds wonderful . . .

  8. My husband and I recently started eating vegetarian. I've been looking for recipes and this sounds delicious. Thanks!


  9. I substituted brown lentils & used low salt veg/tomato juice instead of tomatos & wine. Also added 1/3 C chopped walnuts and left over shiitake mushrooms. Served on whole wheat pasta. It was what I had on hand & was tasty.

  10. Fabulous! I did add fresh garlic and crimini mushrooms, but otherwise followed the recipe. Better than bolognese with meat BY FAR! Will definitely make it again!

  11. How many grams in a serving ? You stated 176 calories per serving ,But the serving size was not stated. Thanks.

  12. I'm Italian and have been making this for years, as my mother and grandmother did. I also add garlic. My recipe is similar and so healthy and delicious!

  13. At the very minimum, this is a 48 minute recipe, so not sure why you called it a 30 minute one...

    But pretty darn good!

    1. Lentils take 20-25 mins, to cook. Meanwhile onions, celery and carrots can be chopped and cooked in 15 max, then 5 for tomatoes and 5 for reducing the wine. Takes about a minute to drain and pulse lentils then cook 10-15. That's 36-41 minutes total, so it's not quite a 30 minute recipe but definitely not a minimum of 48.

  14. Hello,
    Can I use red lentils instead of green ones, as mentioned in recipe?