Lentil Bolognese
Dinner, Recipes

Simple Lentil Bolognese

Where did you learn to cook bolognese?

Well, I learned the art of cooking bolognese growing up, from my mother. Hint: she never used a recipe! She used whatever meat she had in the fridge, sometimes sausage, other times beef. Then, she sifted through the vegetables at the bottom of the refrigerator, using the ingredients that needed to be used. A few carrots? She’d use them. Some leftover ends of bell pepper from yesterday’s salad? Those would be incorporated, too. The base, however, was always the same: onions, garlic, and olive oil. 

You know that can of lentils that have been at the back of your shelf for several months now? Yes, me too.

When I Lived Off My Pantry:

One day I was craving a hearty pasta dish, but I had few ingredients. I was moving apartments and I was surviving solely off pantry foods, and scraps of vegetables. So, it didn’t make sense to buy fresh groceries. I decided to do what my mother would do. First, I rummaged around in my vegetable drawer and found a half of an onion. Then, I found a half bag of spinach. Lastly, I had some mushrooms.

What Happened Next:

Having flirted with veganism for a few months, I knew lentil bolognese was a thing. I didn’t have a recipe, so I winged it. The result? Delicious, nutritious, and hearty. Mom would be proud.

Read more about reasons to go vegan here.

The Lentil Glow-Up:

Lentils are wonderful in soups and stews, but what if we just recreate one of our favorite comfort foods in 20 minutes? This recipe is all about resourcefulness, comfort, and simplicity. 

If you’ve got a can of lentils, some pasta, vegetables, and herbs, this recipe is for you.


  • Fresh Garlic: Feel free to use 1-2 cloves fresh garlic in place of garlic paste! Slice them nice and thin, and cook them with the onions and olive oil. 
  • Carrots: in place of the mushrooms, carrots work well in this recipe. Dice them up small and sauté them for 5 minutes.
  • Kale: Chopped kale would work really nicely in place of spinach. Feel free to add kale if that’s what you prefer!

Share the Love: 

What’s your personal take on bolognese? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Simple Lentil Bolognese

A minimalist recipe, using pantry staples and vegetables you have in your fridge right now!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword dinner, easyrecipe, lentils, meatless, pantry, pantrystaples, quickrecipe, simple, staples, vegan
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 374kcal
Author meghanlavincooks


  • 1 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 3/4 cup sliced white mushrooms
  • 1 15 oz can lentils drained
  • 2/3 cup strained tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup spinach roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley finely chopped
  • 4 cups cooked spaghetti


  • Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Add diced onion and let them become fragrant and slightly translucent.
  • Sauté sliced mushrooms for 3 minutes on medium high heat. Let the mushrooms breathe and have space in the pan. Turning them once will produce the tastiest, meatiest-textured mushrooms.
  • Add the lentils to the pan, crushing them with your hands as you do so. I find having some lentils whole, and others mushed produces the best texture. Cook for 2 minutes until lightly browned.
  • Add strained tomato, tomato paste, garlic paste, water, salt and pepper, and basil. Reduce heat to low.
  • Simmer on low for 5 minutes.
  • Stir parsley and spinach into the bolognese, letting it wilt slightly, and turn off heat immediately.
  • Serve over cooked spaghetti, garnish with a sprig of parsley, and enjoy!


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