Lentil Bolognese is a savory vegan pasta sauce that’s loaded with veggies, lentils, tomatoes, fresh herbs and plenty of seasonings. This meal is hearty, nutritious, protein-packed, and always gets rave reviews!

This delicious lentil bolognese sauce served over pasta is comfort in a bowl. Rich and thick, it’s an aromatic dish that’s bursting with so much flavor, you’re going to want to enjoy it often. It’s easy to make and is the perfect weeknight dinner recipe the whole family will love.

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Sometimes it’s assumed that without meat, a meal won’t have enough protein or be filling enough. That is not the case with this dish! Lentils provide a great amount of protein and staying power. Only 1/2 cup of cooked lentils provides about 12 grams of protein!

Why you will love this recipe

  • Nutritious. While this vegan bolognese is meat free, it’s still packed with protein from the lentils and is incredibly satisfying. It’s also loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals — it’s a meal you just feel good eating!
  • Simple and easy. There’s nothing complicated about this recipe. You sauté your ingredients and then simmer for about 45 minutes to let the flavors come together. 
  • So tasty. There’s nothing better than a warm delicious bolognese sauce over some pasta. It’s the perfect cozy meal during the colder seasons.
Saucy pasta garnished with fresh parsley.

Ingredients needed

This vegetarian bolognese recipe has such wonderful flavor thanks to the combination of lentils, sautéed veggies, tomatoes, herbs and red wine. Here’s everything you’ll need:

  • Extra virgin olive oil. For cooking down the vegetables and adding richness to the sauce.
  • Onion + garlic. Sautéed onion and garlic adds delicious aromatic flavor to the sauce.
  • Celery + carrot. Adds heartiness and flavor.
  • Flavorings. To season the sauce, we’re using Italian seasoning along with salt & pepper. Fresh Italian parsley adds a clean, slightly peppery taste. 
  • Tomato paste + crushed tomatoes. For best results, we recommend going with a higher quality brand like Mutti, Cento or Muir Glen. Lower quality sauce will have a tinny, acidic flavor.
  • Red wine + vegetable broth. The base of the sauce. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chianti, and Zinfandel all pair very well with tomato-based recipes. You don’t have to use an expensive bottle. Something in the $6-$10 range will work just fine. Also, the alcohol will cook off, so don’t worry about any alcohol content in the sauce – it just adds flavor!
  • Lentils. You can use brown or green lentils. They are economical, plus they’re packed with protein, making them filling and sustaining. 
  • Chopped walnuts. Adds texture and a boost of healthy fats.
  • Grated parmesan. Optional, to finish the dish. 

How to make this recipe

This pasta sauce recipe is very simple and straightforward. You only need one pot and just about 15 minutes hands-on time. Here’s the simple method:

For the full, printable recipe, reference the recipe card at the bottom of the page.

  1. Sauté onion + garlic. In a large deep skillet or pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add in the onion and garlic and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Cook the veggies. Add in the celery, carrot, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Mix and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and continue to cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Simmer. Add in the wine (or ½ cup of additional broth, if not using wine) and scrape the bottom of the skillet to deglaze. Add in the broth, lentils, walnuts, and crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer for 40-45 minutes, stirring every few minutes, or until the lentils are tender and cooked.
  4. Serve. Stir in the parsley and cheese and cook for 1 additional minute. Remove from the heat and enjoy over your favorite pasta!

Expert tips

This pasta dish is pretty simple and straightforward, but here are some tips, so you have the best results every time:

  • Finely dice the veggies. You don’t want any chunks of uncooked carrot, onion, or celery, so take your time to be certain the veggies are finely and evenly diced.
  • Simmer time. It’s important to let this lentil bolognese sauce simmer the full 40 to 45 minutes for the best flavors. 
  • Pasta options. This dish is traditionally served with spaghetti, but the sauce really goes well with most shapes of pasta. If you don’t have spaghetti on hand, try another long pasta such as fettuccine, linguine or bucatini. You can also use a variety of short pasta varieties including penne, rigatoni and fusilli.
Lentil sauce on a wooden spoon.

Frequently asked questions

How can I make my bolognese taste better?

Even though you can sub the red wine with additional veggie broth, deglazing the pan with red wine brings out the meatiness in the lentils and gives the sauce extra richness. Highly recommend!

Why do you put carrots in bolognese sauce?

Carrots along with celery and onion season the sauce and give it delicious flavor. The natural sweetness of the carrots helps to build a complex flavor profile.

Do lentils need to be soaked before making lentil bolognese?

No! Lentils do not need to be soaked before making this recipe. Once you’ve rinsed them off, they cook in the sauce. Having the lentils cook slowly in the sauce lends a delicious flavor and hearty texture. In other recipes that call for lentils, soaking them can cut down cooking time.

Can red lentils be used?

If you want to use red lentils for this recipe, just know that they’ll need less cook time and will end up quite a bit softer than the brown or green lentils.

Storage recommendations

  • Storing leftovers. It’s best to store the lentil bolognese separate from the pasta, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Reheating. Warm up on the stove or in the microwave until it’s heated through.
  • Freezing. We love to make a double batch of sauce and freeze half to use later. Store it in a freezer container for up to a month. Thaw overnight in the fridge for best results.
Lentil pasta sauce served over pasta in a white plate.

As usual, PLEASE let me know if you make this recipe and how you like it! You can come back here and leave a comment or tag me on instagram (@foodwithfeeling).

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Lentil Bolognese served over pasta on a white plate.

Lentil Bolognese


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  • Author: Brita Britnell
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Lentil Bolognese is a savory vegan pasta sauce that’s loaded with veggies, lentils, tomatoes, fresh herbs and plenty of seasonings. This meal is hearty, nutritious, protein-packed, and always gets rave reviews!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 56 oz can of tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup of red wine (optional or more broth)
  • 2 cups of veggie broth
  • 1 1/4 cups of brown or green lentils*
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts, finely chopped*
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a large deep skillet or pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add in the onion and garlic and 15 for 10 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Add in the celery, carrot, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. Mix and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Mix in the tomato paste and continue to cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly.
  3. Add in the wine (or ½ cup of additional broth if not using wine) and scrape the bottom of the skillet to deglaze. Add in the broth, lentils, walnuts, and crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer for 40-45 minutes, stirring every few minutes, or until the lentils are tender and cooked.
  4. Stir in the parsley and cheese and cook for 1 additional minute. Remove from the heat and enjoy over your favorite pasta!

Notes

  • Storing leftovers. It’s best to store the sauce separate from the pasta, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Reheating. Warm up on the stove or in the microwave until it’s heated through.
  • Freezing. We love to make a double batch of sauce and freeze half to use later. Store it in a freezer container for up to a month. Thaw overnight in the fridge for best results.

Lentils – If you want to use red lentils for this recipe, just know that they’ll need less cook time and will end up quite a bit softer than the brown or green lentils.

Walnuts – I tested the recipe with and without the walnuts. You can leave them out as desired. They add a nice little bit of crunch to the recipe that I find really nice.

Parmesan- This can either be left out completely or replaced with a vegan parmesan.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian

Nutrition

  • Serving Size:
  • Calories: 373
  • Sugar: 8.2 g
  • Sodium: 736.8 mg
  • Fat: 17.4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 40.6 g
  • Protein: 15.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 2.4 mg