Vegan Lentil Bolognese

How many of you love a spaghetti night? Whether you're Italian or not, I feel like pasta is a comfort food for almost everyone. Personally, I'm not the biggest red sauce lover & I think that is the reason alone that I have always stayed away from Bolognese. Even though a Bolognese sauce is more meat based, I always stuck to butter & cheese or my all time favorite of garlic, oil & green olives. It wasn't until I started working at Harbor Bistro back in 2010, that I developed a love for the Bolo. Hands down, the best Bolognese Sauce I've ever had to this day. If you're out on the East end & you're a meat eater, do yourself a favor and head to Harbor Bistro next Thursday as they open for their 11th season & grab yourself a bowl-o… see what I did there? ;-)

With the Bistro opening next week & the three bags of lentils that have been sitting in my cupboard for the last few weeks, I was inspired to try & make a vegan version of a Bolognese, swapping out the ground meat for some split red lentils! I also have had two boxes of this really delicious spaghetti hanging around that I've been waiting to use. The brand is called DeBoles & it's made from artichoke inulin & durum flour. My Aunt Carla actually turned me on to this brand when she so thoughtfully bought it for my Dad & I over the holidays! So, with an image in my head, I started to put together a recipe!

A Bolognese Sauce typically has some kind of pork in it, adding a depth in flavor & rich saltiness! Since my sauce was going to be meat-free, I needed something to give it that extra bite! When I opened my fridge to see an unopened jar of miso paste, I knew we were headed in the right direction! So, I gathered my produce & got to chopping! For the recipe, you will need the following:

4 C Cooked Split Red Lentils ( Roughly 1 Ea 16 Oz Bag)

1 Ea Large Yellow Onion, Small Diced

4-5 Ea Medium Sized Carrots, Small Diced

5 Ea Stalks of Celery, Small Diced

1 Ea Green Bell Pepper, Small Diced

5 Ea Cloves of Garlic, Minced

1 Pint, Baby Bella Mushrooms, Small Diced

4 Oz Organic Tomato Paste

1/4 C Liquid Aminos

1/4 C White Miso Paste

1 Ea 28 Oz Can of Organic Crushed Tomatoes, Blended

3 Ea Sprigs of Rosemary

1/2 C Flat Leaf Parsley, Rough Chopped

1 Box of Your Preferred Pasta, Cooked

To start, cook your lentils! Following the directions on the bag, cook your lentils & then transfer to a vessel with a large surface area & set in the fridge to cool. While the lentils are cooling, open your can of crushed tomatoes & give them a quick buzz in a blender. Then you can begin your knife cuts. You want your veg to be uniform in size to ensure even cooking. Once you have all of your veg cut, in a large straight-sided sauté pan, heat 1-2 Tbsp of your favorite cooking oil on a medium flame. Add your onions, carrots & celery (aka "sofrito") as well as your garlic & pepper & sweat for about 5-7 minutes or until tender. Normally, I would tell you to begin seasoning here, however, with the amount of sodium in miso paste as well as liquid aminos, I actually didn't add any extra salt to this sauce, just some fresh cracked black pepper! 

*At this point, you should start boiling some salted water for you pasta!

Next you want to "pince" your tomato paste. Pincage refers to the French cooking technique in which a small amount of tomato paste is added to mirepoix (2 parts onions, 1 part carrot, 1 part celery) or sofrito (Italian version) for color & depth in flavor. Along with your tomato paste, you can add the miso paste & cook for about two minutes, then deglaze your pan with the liquid aminos! Add your diced mushrooms and cook for about one minute. Then add the blended tomatoes, cooked lentils & rosemary sprigs & let simmer for about ten minutes. While the sauce is cooking down, add your pasta to the boiling water. Cook & strain. 

Finish your sauce by removing the rosemary & adding in 1/4 C of fresh chopped parsley. Check your seasoning here & if it's not salty enough for you, you can opt to add a little more liquid aminos… like I did. :-) Place your pasta in a large bowl, serve with a generous amount of Bolognese & garish with some more parsley!

This dish came out better than I expected. With all of the diced veggies & lentils, the sauce ends up being pretty hearty & really feels & tastes like meat. Not to mention that lentils are incredibly packed with protein… I'm talking 18 grams per cup, say whatttttt?! I could have just eaten it with a spoon! Fortunately, there was a good amount of sauce left over, enough to send some home with my gal pal Jess & some to throw in my own fridge for mañana! I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did & feel free to let me know if you come up with any other versions! Recipes are all about modifications! Happy testing!