If eating healthier is in your wheelhouse you’re going to flip over this dish, adapted from Marcella Hazan’s stellar recipe for Bolognese Meat Sauce. Swapping in the healthy goodness of lentils & mushrooms for ground meat in the classic Bolognese ragu makes an extremely healthful, yet still tasty pasta sauce.
Lentils are similar in size & texture to ground meat and this idea hit me after making the über delicious vegetarian lentil & mushroom shepherd’s pie. Its texture was remarkably close to traditional shepherd’s pie, it was just as tasty – but so much better for you!
It was so fantastic; flavourful and filling while still being light, and yet healthier… so my culinary mind turned to other dishes that could be adapted as such. This, was the first choice.
Lentils + mushrooms = culinary match made in heaven!
Yet… still fabulous flavour, and texture!
Lentils are very high in fibre, and excellent sources of iron & magnesium. Mushrooms are very low in calories and super dense with nutrients. Need I say more…
Traditionalists might cringe, but the health benefits should help get over it.
You want the mushrooms minced to be roughly about the size of the lentils, so a food processor comes in very handy here. You could do it by hand, just be prepared to do some serious chopping!
Cook the minced mushrooms first, then remove them from the pan and set aside. You’ll add them back later.
Next come the onion, celery and carrot… flavour builders!
Add the prepped & cooked lentils, and the mushrooms that you sautéed earlier.
I kept the grating of nutmeg from the traditional recipe. It always gives a nice little background hum!
A big splash of wine, which will cook away, but leave that lovely background note. See what’s going on here… building flavour with each step. THAT makes a great final dish.
Alternatives for healthier eating.
After adding the tomatoes it’s a 20 minute simmer to an unbelievably tasty and healthy version of Bolognese. It’s filling, but in a good way, and you won’t feel weighed down after eating it! Serve with your fave wide noodle pasta and don’t forget to pass some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano for those who can have it!
Vegan Lentil & Mushroom Bolognese
- 1 cup quality green lentils Italian if you can find them cooked and drained
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 oz cremini mushrooms (or portobello) or white button, minced
- 1 small onion chopped small
- 2 medium carrots diced small
- 1 stalk celery diced small
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1 28 oz. can quality Italian tomatoes crushed by hand, with their juices
- to serve:
- Wide pasta like tagliatelle or pappardelle
- Fresh chopped Italian parsley
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Put the lentils on to cook, unless you've cooked them ahead, and get on with chopping the vegetables. (Once they're cooked, drain and set aside.)
Mince the mushrooms, in a food processor if you have one.
Heat a heavy Dutch oven on medium, then add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the minced mushrooms and cook stirring frequently for 3 - 4 minutes (if it gets very dry add a bit more olive oil). With a heatproof spatula, remove the cooked mixture from pot, scraping the pot very clean, and set aside.
Put the pot back on medium and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion, carrots & celery, and a good pinch of salt & pepper and cook, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. (You really want the flavour to develop here.)
Add the cooked lentils and mushroom mixture to the pot. Grate in a few swipes of nutmeg, and another good pinch of salt & pepper, stirring to combine.
Add the wine and let it bubble & simmer until it’s evaporated, then add the tomatoes & their juices, a big pinch of salt & pepper, and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to low, and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning - for more salt & pepper.
Put a large pot of water on for the pasta and cook to package directions. Drain when cooked al dente and place on a serving plate/platter.
Spoon the sauce over the pasta, garnishing with fresh chopped Italian parsley (fresh basil would be great when it's in season!) You can toss it together at the table!
For anyone that can eat cheese, serve with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano at the table.
Save time by cooking the lentils a day or two ahead!
This makes a lot but it also freezes very well.