This easy 30-minute lentil bolognese is made from scratch with a super flavorful tomato sauce and tender nutrient-packed lentils. Served over your favorite pasta, this lentil bolognese sauce recipe is quick and easy. You won’t miss the meat in this pasta sauce!
What is bolognese?
You might conversationally call it spaghetti sauce or even marinara sauce, but bolognese sauce is a meat-based Italian sauce. The name comes from the city where it was created – Bologna.
I decided to make a meatless version by replacing the meat with lentils.
This is thicker and creamier than jarred tomato-based sauce. It has a sweet and savory flavor, and the aromas will make you wish dinner would be served quicker!
Why this lentil bolognese recipe works
- It’s as easy as a jarred sauce. The entire lentil bolognese recipe only takes about 30-minutes to make.
- It’s a vegan recipe. All of the ingredients are plant-based, which enhances the flavors and freshness.
- It’s also dairy-free. This should go without saying since it’s vegan, but most bolognese sauces are made creamy because of heavy whipping cream. I used coconut cream instead.
What type of noodles to use for bolognese
Traditional Italian recipes use broad flat pasta for bolognese sauce. Something like fettuccine will be perfect! You could also use tube noodles like rigatoni or penne.
I used gluten-free tagliatelle so I can keep this recipe gluten-free AND vegan.
What are lentils
Lentils are a type of legume like beans. There are different types and colors of lentils, but I prefer using sprouted lentils over dry lentils for a few reasons.
Sprouted lentils have more iron and copper and less folate than dried ones. They are also easier to digest, and you absorb more of the B & C vitamins.
You can soak, dry, rinse, and repeat with dried lentils to sprout them, but it’s much easier to just buy them already sprouted if you can. Also, they cook much faster too!
Lentil bolognese ingredients
Besides the sprouted lentils, I tried to stick to the traditional spices and tomato-based ingredients. Here is what I used in my bolognese sauce:
- Olive oil
- Garlic cloves
- Dried oregano
- Dried basil
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Dried thyme
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
- Dry red or white wine
- Tomato sauce
- Vegetable broth
- ‘Better Than Boullion’ vegetable base
- Bay leaf
- Coconut cream
- Flat pasta
How to make bolognese base
This lentil bolognese sauce begins like most of my pasta sauces!
- First, saute the onions in olive oil till soft, and add garlic.
- Then, add the spices.
Sauce base tip:
Wine is your best friend when making pasta sauce! You can use red or white wine.
Red gives you a more deep, robust flavor, while white is more fruity and subtle. Wine helps enhance the flavor of the sauce!
Making homemade tomato sauce
Next comes the tomato base.
You can use whole peeled tomatoes, allow them to break down, then blend with an immersion blender. For time purposes, I frequently use high-quality canned tomato sauce.
I add ‘Better Than Bouillon’ vegetable base (which is vegan) to give the sauce an extra pop of flavor, followed by vegetable broth and a bay leaf.
Allow the ingredients to come to a gentle boil.
How to cook lentils
As I mentioned earlier, using these already sprouted lentils cut the cooking time in half.
So, once the tomato sauce is at a gentle boil, add the sprouted lentils, mix to combine, and cover. Then, lower the heat and allow them to simmer for 15 minutes!
Dairy-free heavy cream substitute
Red sauces can be overly acidic, so that’s why you see a lot of recipes using heavy cream to round out the flavor of a sauce and mellow the acid.
My absolute favorite substitute for heavy cream is using coconut cream!
Coconut cream has the same thick consistency and does not make this lentil bolognese recipe taste like coconut. It’s my go-to for making recipes dairy free and is a must-try.
Cooking gluten-free pasta
While the lentils simmer, bring salted water to a boil in a pot and cook your favorite pasta according to package instructions.
I used gluten-free tagliatelle, but this bolognese goes great with different shapes of pasta. Feel free to use your favorite!
Finishing vegan bolognese
After the sauce is finished simmering, add the coconut cream, stir, and taste. The lentils should be tender, and this is the time to adjust the seasoning if needed.
Serve tomato lentil bolognese
To serve lentil bolognese: add pasta into a bowl, spoon lentil bolognese sauce over the top, and top with freshly cut basil.
You can also toss the lentil bolognese sauce with the pasta to fully coat.
How to store the sauce
Storing lentil bolognese is super easy! Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
The sauce can be easily frozen as well for a longer duration. Allow the sauce to cool, then add into a freezer bag. Press flat and freeze for up to 4 to 6 months.
Thaw in the refrigerator, then reheat in a pot.
Looking for more pasta recipes?
- Beef Bolognese
- Creamy Pesto Pasta
- French Onion Pasta Bake
- Stuffed Pasta Shells
- Roasted Eggplant and Bell Pepper Pasta
- Penne Alla Vodka
Made this recipe and loved it? Leave a star rating below!
- 9 ounces sprouted lentils see note #1
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion diced (about 3 tablespoons)
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup dry red or white wine
- 28 ounces tomato sauce
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 ½ tablespoons coconut cream see note #2
- 1 pound pasta cooked to package instruction (see note #3)
- Garnish: freshly chopped basil
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package instructions
- In a dutch oven or high walled skillet over medium heat, add 3 tbsp of olive oil. Add onion and sauté for 4-5 minutes until soft. Add in the garlic, oregano, thyme, dried basil, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, stir and sauté for an additional minute until garlic is fragrant. Add in the white wine and allow the pan to deglaze, scraping any browned bits with your wooden spoon.
- Once the liquid has reduced by half, add in the tomato sauce, vegetable broth, better than bouillon, tomato paste. Stir to combine and add in the bay leaf. Bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Once boiling, add in the sprouted lentils, stir to combine, lower the heat to simmer, and cover. Allow the lentils to simmer for 15 minutes.
- After lentils have simmered for 15 minutes, uncover, add in the coconut cream, and stir. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Lentils should be tender and cooked through (cook time will vary/be longer if you aren’t using sprouted lentils).
- Serve the lentil bolognese over the pasta and top with freshly chopped basil.
- I purchased/used already sprouted lentils for this recipe. If using dry lentils you can rinse and the cook time will be around 40 minutes and you may need more liquid if it becomes too thick, add more broth. You can also soak the dry lentils for a few hours to cut the cook time.
- If you do not have coconut cream and do not need recipe to be vegan, you can substitute heavy cream for coconut cream
- I used gluten free tagliatelle for this recipe. You can use which ever pasta shape you would like, follow individual package for pasta cook time
- Storing: Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The lentil bolognese sauce can be easily freezed. Allow the sauce to cool, then add into a freezer bag. Press flat and freeze for up to 4 to 6 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, then reheat on low in a pot.