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Lentil Bolognese

Julia Gartland
Cook Time:
25 mins
Prep Time:
5 mins

Chef notes

When you know that you have a recipe for a pantry-staple friendly, simple to prepare pasta in your back pocket, there are few things that can go wrong. This Lentil Bolognese is one of my favorites. It's fun to use lentils in a Bolognese in the same way that you would meat, while keeping traditional elements like carrots and onions along for the ride. The result adds a plant-based twist to a traditional and iconic pasta dish.

Technique tip: Buy pre-cooked lentils from your grocery store to save time.


  • kosher salt
  • 10 ounces penne, rigatoni, tagliatelle or fettucine
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, finely shredded
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup cooked lentils (about 1/4 cup dry)



Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the pasta, and cook until al dente according to the instructions on the package. Reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water before draining the pasta and setting it aside.


In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When it is shimmering, add the onions and sauté until they start to turn translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Now add the garlic and cook the onions and garlic together until they both begin to brown slightly around the edges, another 2 to 3 minutes.


Add the carrots to the onions and cook everything together until the carrots have started to soften, 3 to 5 minutes.


Now add the crushed tomatoes. Simmer them with the onions and carrots for about 5 minutes.


Add the red pepper flakes, dried oregano, cumin and black pepper to taste. Cook over medium-low heat until the spices have infused well, 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt to taste.


Add the cooked lentils and simmer them in the tomato sauce for about 5 minutes to heat the lentils and cook them together with the sauce so everyone can get familiar with one another.


Add the pasta and the reserved pasta cooking water. Stir so the sauce coats the pasta well. Serve with red pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper on top.