Looking for a plant-based meal that's cheap, packed with protein, and super easy to put together? This lentil bolognese has got you covered.
Did we mention how delicious it is? Let's do this!
They say a classic Bolognese should be in every home cook's repertoire. Well, now we have to take it a step further and ensure you know how to make a plant-based Bolognese for all your non-meat-eating friends like us. You're welcome.
But let's clear a few things up because we're nothing if not detail-oriented.
Ragu is a meat-based Italian sauce. Bolognese, or more correctly coined Ragu alla Bolognese is a version of ragu, just thicker and creamier. The most popular version in western cuisine is spaghetti Bolognese, but it's nothing more than an imposter dressed in Italian clothing.
So, what's the difference? The pasta! Thicker pasta, like tagliatelle, are able to hold more sauce so you're not left with a soupy mess on your plate.
To be honest with you, we just started getting into pasta dishes again and it's been a long journey. Why? Boston Pizza, that's why.
We were both semi-professional athletes growing up and were forced to eat endless amounts of pasta from an average tasting chain restaurant we usually just call "BP."
We swore we would never eat pasta again, but here we are years later creating delicious pasta dishes we actually love. So get your ingredients out, pour yourself a glass of vino, and let's make some magic happen.
🍲 Key ingredients
- Lentils: lentils are the perfect meat replacement to form the star ingredient of this dish! They're "meaty" and jam-packed with protein. In just one cup of cooked lentils, there is a whopping 18 grams of protein, 15 grams of fiber, and 37% of your daily dose of iron (say whaaaaat?!).
- Veggies: to add more umami flavor and texture, we add veggies like mushrooms, celery, carrots, and onions. We love their vibrant hues and nutritional benefits. Take carrots as an example. They contain beta carotene, which is necessary to form vitamin A and maintain healthy eyes.
- Coconut milk: the secret to a true Bolognese sauce is milk. We use coconut milk as a plant-based replacement to add richness and depth for a more traditional taste. Coconut milk contains several vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, manganese, and potassium.
- White wine: to lend acidity to this already rich meal, we add dry white wine (just make sure it's vegan-friendly). So for all you wine lovers, lentil bolognese is definitely your new favorite meal. Did you know studies have shown white wine is healthy for the heart? Drink up!
To begin, you'll need to cook some brown lentils on the stove top or in an instant pot. We personally use our instant pot for this step since it saves time. Then, sauté your diced onion, carrot, mushrooms, celery, and garlic in a little olive oil.
Once your veggies are tender, add in the white wine and simmer this mixture for a few minutes. Next, stir in the tomato paste and spices.
When the veggies are nicely coated, add in the bay leaves, tomato sauce, and coconut milk, then reduce the heat and simmer for 35-40 minutes. This will allow all the flavors to meld.
When the sauce is almost done simmering, bring some water and salt to a boil in a large pot. Once boiling, add in your pasta and cook as per package directions. Drain the pasta and transfer it back to the pot.
While the pasta cooks, add the cooked lentils to your sauce, season with salt and pepper, then simmer for a few minutes more. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
When you are ready to eat, discard both bay leaves and transfer the sauce to your pot of noodles. Stir to incorporate the sauce and pasta together, then serve with a garnish of vegan parmesan and chopped parsley.
We always recommend storing your pasta separate from the sauce. The sauce will keep for up to 4-5 days in your fridge. Alternatively, you can freeze it in airtight containers or resealable plastic bags for up to 1 month.
It's best to make your pasta fresh at the time of eating. Just reheat the sauce and add it to the freshly boiled pasta.
💭 Budget tips
We think everyone should be able to eat better for less, so here are a few tricks to make this recipe even more affordable:
- Choose a cheaper vegetable oil instead of olive
- Opt for dried lentils, and pre-cook them yourself
- Skip the vegan parmesan garnish
- Don't waste expensive white wine on this recipe!
🍴 Tasting notes
This dish of comfort food is exactly what you need right now. It's:
If you try this pasta, please rate it and leave us a comment below! Want to stay up-to-date with new recipes? Subscribe to our newsletter or connect with Broke Bank Vegan on social media. Happy eating!
Plant-Based Lentil Bolognese
- Large pot
- Large frying pan
- 20 ounces wide pasta* ($2.67)
- 2 tbsp olive oil ($0.24)
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced ($0.24)
- 1 ¾ cups cremini mushrooms, finely chopped ($0.34)
- 2 whole carrots, shredded ($0.42)
- 3 stalks celery, finely diced ($0.15)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced ($0.16)
- ½ cup dry white wine ($1.52)
- ¼ cup tomato paste ($0.32)
- 1 ½ tsp oregano ($0.04)
- 1 ½ tsp basil ($0.03)
- 1 ½ tsp thyme ($0.06)
- ⅛ tsp cayenne optional
- 2 bay leaves ($0.02)
- ½ cup full-fat canned coconut milk ($0.27)
- 2 cups plain tomato sauce ($2.41)
- 2 cups cooked brown lentils ($0.40)
- Salt & pepper to taste ($0.02)
- 1 recipe vegan parmesan cheese
- Chopped parsley
- In a large saucepan over medium, heat olive oil. Add in diced onion, mushrooms, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook until veggies are soft, about 6-7 minutes.
- Then, pour in white wine and bring mixture to a simmer. Cook for another 3-4 minutes to reduce the wine slightly. Next, stir in tomato paste, oregano, basil, thyme, and cayenne.
- Once combined, add bay leaves, tomato sauce, and coconut milk, then reduce heat and simmer for 35-40 minutes, allowing flavors to meld.
- With about 10 minutes left of cook time, bring some water & salt to a boil in a large cooking pot. Once boiling, add in pasta and cook as per package directions. Once al dente, drain and add back to the pot.
- When the lentils have finished cooking, transfer 2 cups to the saucepan, season with salt and pepper, and cook a few minutes more to incorporate all flavors. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
- When you are ready to serve, discard bay leaves and transfer sauce to the pot of noodles. Stir to coat pasta in sauce, then garnish with vegan parmesan and chopped parsley.
- *The best type of pasta to use for this dish is tagliatelle or pappardelle.
- If you don't have brown lentils, you can also use the green variety. Just steer away from red lentils as they will not hold their shape as well.
- Optional ingredients are not reflected in the price or calories of this recipe.
♻️ Similar recipes
For more hearty and filling meal ideas, check out our:
- Vegan fettuccine alfredo if you prefer your pasta with a rich and creamy white sauce.
- Lentil loaf for a festive feature dish at your next holiday gathering.
- Vegan basil pesto pasta with vegetables because pesto is everything.
- Lentil patties with lemon tahini dressing for some delicious Mediterranean vibes.
You can use any lentil variety you prefer in this recipe. We use brown lentils because they hold their shape the best and give it that "meaty" texture a traditional Bolognese has.
You do not have to use coconut milk. You can use another kind of plant milk like soy or cashew. However, for the richest sauce, we recommend full-fat canned coconut milk.
If you cannot find tagliatelle or pappardelle pasta at the usual grocery stores, try looking at your local Mediterranean market.