Food & Drink Muse

Store Cupboard Saviours: Lentil 'Bolognese'

This simple pasta sauce is as healthy as it is delicious.

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Image Credit: Cottonbro

Carbs are the icon of the lockdown diet, and no one can tell me otherwise. Why should we be attempting anything else, when it’s hard enough to remember what day it is? That having been said, there are ways we can smuggle some nutrition back into our food. This lentil ‘bolognese’ is a flavourful sauce that you will easily forget is healthy, once it’s been smothered with cheese and dunked with garlic bread.

I made this recipe so much in first year that my flatmates joked it was my ‘signature dish’. They were all puzzled as to why I was so obsessed with it until they tried it themselves and asked me to make it for them!

Lentils are a great cupboard investment right now. Unlike pasta which will be gone by the end of the week (if you’re anything like me), a kilo of lentils can last you for weeks or months. It’s hard to get bored of them when they’re so versatile: lentil soup, lentil curry… you can chuck them in anything savoury. Before I went vegetarian, I was wasn’t keen on them, or sure how to cook them. If you feel the same as I did, lentil pasta is a great place to start. Swapping meat substitutes like Quorn for legumes can significantly boost your meal’s nutritional profile. Lentils are packed with B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and potassium. They also contain plenty of iron, which is often lacking in vegetarian diets.

I’m sure any Italians reading this would find it blasphemous that I call this ‘bolognese’, but I use this term loosely only because the sauce goes great with spaghetti and garlic bread, just as the classic meat sauce does. If you’re a keen Nouse reader, you’ll notice this recipe has many of the same ingredients as my bean chili. Building up a stock of recipes that use the same ingredients can make your shopping cheaper and easier.

Ingredients – serves 4

1 onion
3 – 4 cloves of garlic
1 red pepper
1 large carrot
80g mushrooms
400g chopped tomatoes or passata
300g split red lentils
200ml veggie stock
1 tbsp tomato puree
A squirt of ketchup
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste

To serve

Pasta (75g per person)
Garlic bread and cheese (optional)


  1. Finely dice the onions, before sweating them on a low heat in a saucepan with the olive oil. When they have started to go translucent, crush your garlic and add it.
  2. Dice up your red pepper. Peel your mushrooms before chopping them, rather than washing them; mushrooms absorb water if you do this, meaning they will not take on the flavours in the pan. I prefer to grate my carrot as it’s quicker, but you could chop it. Add all your veggies at once, simmering on a low heat.
  3. Rinse the lentils in a sieve. Once your veggies have softened, add the chopped tomatoes and rinsed lentils.
  4. Add the tomato puree, ketchup, and seasonings, giving it a good stir.
  5. Add your vegetable stock and leave the sauce to simmer for 30 minutes.
  6. Serve with your preferred pasta shape, and (ideally) garlic bread.

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