Spaghetti Bolognese is the ultimate comfort food. It’s warm, saucy, and full of flavor. Eating a more plant based diet can be daunting, but lentils are an easy way to lower your meat consumption. I usually watch two Netflix documentaries on health a year and then become a vegan that lasts approximately 5 days. I’m not advocating meat is bad, but eating less meat (particularly red) is always a goal of mine. Lentils are packed with fiber, protein, and minerals and provide such a hearty feel to any dish. Bonus- they are super cheap too!
If you were like me, you likely have an excess supply of pantry goods from the covid-19 quarantine. I loaded our garage as if the world was ending. The unknown was driving us all to insanity. Were we going to be trapped in the house for 2 weeks, 3 months, 2 years….who knows?? I bought enough lentils, beans, ramen, and toilet paper to get through all of 2020 and feed an entire country. So get ready for lots of legume recipes from me!
What are lentils?
Lentils are actually edible seeds in the legume family. They come in red, brown black and green varieties. They are naturally high in fiber and protein, and are packed with B vitamins, zinc, and potassium. Lentils also contain a plant compound called phytochemicals. Phytochemicals help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease.
What is in Lentil Walnut Bolognese?
- Lentils- Lentils create the hearty “meaty” substance to the bolognese sauce. There are a variety of different lentils out there and all of them will work. I use either brown, green or black (beluga) lentils in my sauce.
- Walnuts- Add richness to the bolognese by adding plant based fats.
- Red wine- Provides depth. Also, I am thirsty and want a glass of wine, so why not?
- Onion and Garlic- The base to all good Italian sauces.
- Tomatoes- The acid and saucy component to the dish that will take on all the added flavors.
- Cheese- Totally optional, but everything tastes better with cheese.
- Herbs and spices- Basil and Italian parsley add a fresh component. I also like adding a pinch of red chili flakes to add a little zest.
How to make lentil walnut bolognese?
Bolognese sauce may not be quick, but it’s incredibly easy. Once you get everything in the pot, all you have to do is let it simmer and cook up your pasta.
1. In a large sauce pot, saute the onion in olive oil for about 5 minutes, or until tender. The onions will be translucent, soft, and begin to take on some browning.
2. Add the red chili flake and garlic and saute for an additional minute. Add the red wine and stir, scraping up any browning from the bottom of the pan. Let simmer for 3 minutes.
3. Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, lentils, salt, dried oregano, and water. With the lid on simmer for about 30 minutes- 1 hour, until the lentils are tender to the bite. Cook times vary by lentil variety. The green lentils will take closer to an hour and the brown and black should be closer to 30 minutes.
4. In a food processor, pulse the walnuts until coursly ground. The ground size should resemble ground beef. You can also chop using a good ol’ fashion knife, if you prefer. Toast the ground walnuts in a skillet over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chopped walnuts, parsley, basil and cheese to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Serve with pasta and top with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese.
Lentil Walnut Bolognese Sauce
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp red chili flake
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp salt
- 3/4 cup dried lentils (brown, black, or green)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 2.75 cups water
- 1.5 cups whole walnuts
- 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
- 1/2 cup basil, chopped (plus more for garnish)
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated (plus more for garnish)
- In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the diced onions and saute for 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and red chili flake and saute for an additional minute. Add the red wine and simmer for 3 minutes.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, salt, lentils, dried oregano, and water to the pot. With the lid on simmer for 30 minutes- 1 hour or until the lentils are tender. Add water as necessary. Note: Dried lentil cook times vary. Green lentils take closer to an hour and the brown and black variety should be closer to 30 minutes.
- In a food processor, pulse the walnuts until they resemble ground beef. You may also finely chop with a knife. Add the walnuts to a skillet over medium heat. Stir constantly and toast for about 3-5 minutes. Walnuts should be golden color.
- Add the chopped and toasted walnuts, parmesan, basil, and parsley to the pasta sauce. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes.
- Serve with pasta of your choice and topped with fresh basil and parmesan cheese.
I cannot have red wine and walnuts due to health reasons. What are the alternatives?
Hi- You can omit the red wine entirely and the sauce will still be amazing. The walnuts can also be omitted or replaced with your nut of choice. Pecans would be a great alternative.