Bolognese sauce is comfort food at its best. In our pre-health conscious days, a bowl of spag bol was a staple dinner option, especially when we were uni students. Traditionally made with beef, veal or pork mince, this Italian classic also tends to be a favourite of kiddies everywhere. In our plant-based version, we chose protein rich lentils. This is a one pot-meal that’s gluten-free and vegan, making it perfect for a Meatless Monday family dinner.
We decided to venture away from tradition altogether and served the ragu not with pasta, but with thin slices of zucchini (done using a vegetable peeler or a mandolin). You can use a spiralizer if you want more of a spaghetti/linguine texture but we found that the wider zucchini reams go perfectly with the ragu.
Lentils have an amazing ability to absorb and retain flavours so are the perfect base for rich, tomato-based sauces, which in turn draw out the best of its nuttiness and earthy texture. Particularly rich in dietary fibre to promote digestive system health, lean protein that lowers risk of heart disease and cancer, folate to support the nervous system and iron to produce healthy levels of red blood cells, lentils are a nutritional powerhouse for those on plant-based diets. They are also one of the easiest legumes to cook and are low in calories, so it is definitely worth incorporating them more regularly into your diet if you don’t already. Any round green or brown lentils will do but French Puy lentils work really well if you can find them- they retain their texture better.
Use organic tomato passata and paste if you can and buy them in a bottle. Most canned tomatoes are full of harmful BPA. For how to make delicious homemade vegetable stock, check out our broth post. The lentil bolognese can be used in a plant-based shepherd’s pie (great with a cauliflower mash topping and feel free to sub the pasta of your choice for the zucchini if you prefer.
Prep Time: 20 mins | Cook Time: 1.5 hrs | Serves: 6 – 8
- ¼ cup (10g) pre-sliced dried porcini or shitake mushrooms
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or minced
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped carrot
- 2 cup dried green/brown lentils of your choice
- 3 cups organic chopped/crushed tomatoes or passata
- 1 punnet cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup (200g) tomato paste
- 4 cup homemade vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 4 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- pink Himalayan salt & black pepper, to taste
- 4 medium sized zucchinis, thinly sliced on a mandolin or peeler
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, optional
- Pre-heat oven to 190C. Soak dried mushrooms in a bowl of boiling water. Drain mushrooms once they are soft- around 10 minutes (could be longer, go with touch rather than time).
- Meanwhile, heat a dutch oven or a large heavy based pot suitable for the oven (cast iron ideally) on a medium heat flame with the olive oil. When the oil is hot, sauté the onions and garlic until onions are translucent, making sure the garlic doesn’t burn.
- Throw in the lentils, carrots, chopped/crushed tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, stock, red wine vinegar and rosemary sprigs and bay leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste, and bring mixture to a boil.
- Place pot/pan with lid on into the heated oven.
- After 1.5 hours, carefully remove the pot out of the oven. Discard rosemary sprigs and bay leaves.
- Divide zucchini layers into serving bowls. Pour over lentil ragu and sprinkle with nutritional yeast.