Vegan Dairy-Free Gluten-Free 30-Minute Recipe
Not-so-traditional bolognese sauce made vegan with lentils. Just a little coconut milk is stirred in at the end, to add a little creaminess without the dairy and without much coconut flavor. This post includes many uses for this hearty sauce.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a 5-day vegetarian meal plan. I’d love to say I do these meal plans every week. But I don’t. In the coming year, I’m shooting for making these meal plans every other week. Anyway, I wanted to share my rendition of the recipe that was my favorite from that meal plan: Lentil Bolognese.
This recipe checked so many boxes for me.
- It was easy. The food prep wasn’t onerous.
- I could let it simmer on the stove without really doing a thing.
- It was delicious.
- And I was able to do a lot with this sauce all week long. Read on.
Uses for Lentil Bolognese
Put it over noodles, obvi.
Cut a spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds and pith, and roast with a little olive oil. When it’s tender, create spaghetti strands using the tines of a fork. Ladle the bolognese over it.
Eliminate the tomato paste, include the juices from the canned tomatoes, and you have a beautiful thick lentil soup/stew. Add a little water to make it thinner if you want.
Nix the garam masala and roll it up in a flour tortilla with onions and avocado slices – burrito style.
Spoon some into a pita pocket.
Make sloppy joes over bread smeared with olive oil and garlic and lightly toasted.
Or go low-carb as pictured below, and sauté some baby spinach (I used a 5-ounce plastic container of pre-washed baby spinach per serving) with a little lemon juice, salt and pepper. Spread the sautéed spinach on a plate, and ladle the lentil bolognese over it. Create a shallow trough using the back of a spoon, and drizzle some coconut milk and olive oil over the sauce. Finish with fresh ground pepper. Fabulous! And perfect for Christmas! If I’d had some cilantro, I would have chopped some of that on top.
Time Saving Tips for Making Lentil Bolognese
If you want to make this for a party, I recommend making it ahead. The flavor only get better with time. You can even freeze it. In fact, I froze half of it (the recipe makes a lot) for some meals for me when our meat-loving family comes to visit at Christmas.
The prep goes pretty fast, but I’ve seen pre-chopped celery, onions and carrots at my market which would obviously make it go even faster.
Another great way to simplify preparation is to always have sofrito on hand. There are various versions of sofrito, but the one I use is of Spanish origin. It’s super easy, and is made by sautéing onions, celery, carrots with some tomato paste. Sometimes I add red bell peppers too. A few winters ago, I kept a large jar in both the refrigerator AND the freezer. It was a huge time saver for all kinds of sauces, soups and stews I made that winter. (Note to self: make a big batch this weekend and post my recipe for you.)
Or, this might be my favorite way to simplify this recipe, if you have Roasted Tomato Sauce on hand (one of my superstar pantry staples), just add that to the sautéd vegetables. I’m doing it this way next time, and will report on how well it compared to the original version.
Bolognese originates from Bologna, the capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region. This region is famous throughout the world for its cheeses, meats, wine, and a meaty sauce called bolognese.
One of the things that differentiates a traditional bolognese sauce from other Italian meat sauces, is that it typically incorporates milk and wine in the cooking process. It also uses a lot of ground meat as a ratio to tomatoes.
My recipe is a vegan version, heavy on the lentils as a ratio to tomatoes, making it a thick, filling sauce. I added coconut milk – just enough to bring a creaminess into it without shouting coconut. And I added garam masala, a fabulous spice mixture used in the a lot of Indian cooking.
So, no, this is not your nonna’s bolognese, but it’s just as hearty and addictive.
Lentil Bolognese (Vegan)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 2 celery ribs, diced
- 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 tablespoon garlic paste
- 3 ounces tomato paste, or 1/2 of a standard 6-ounce can
- 2 15-ounce cans crushed tomatoes
- 1 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes, drained and diced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala a spice mixture
- 2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/3 cup coconut milk, full fat or light version, plus more for serving
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add the onion, celery and carrot. Sauté until tender, about 7 - 8 minutes. Add the garlic paste and cook for another minute.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes, spices, lentils, water, and salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 20 - 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
- Stir in the coconut milk. Serve with a drizzle of additional coconut milk and extra-virgin olive oil.