Lentil Bolognese Recipe | Ragù di Lenticchie

Lentil Bolognese recipe is an all-vegetable alternative to the classic Bolognese sauce recipe.

Rich in proteins, minerals, vitamins and fiber, lentils prove to be valuable allies of our health.

You can use lentil bolognese to season pasta and, as we will see below, for the same uses as the classic meat sauce.

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Lentil Bolognese is suitable not only for those who follow a diet without animal products, but also for those who follow an omnivorous diet but like to alternate the intake of vegetable proteins with those of animal origin. A choice that makes our diet more sustainable and healthier.

To make lentil Bolognese, if you are using dried lentils, you must first soak them overnight. You could do without the soaking, but this would greatly increase the cooking time and the amount of broth needed.

The most practical and quickest solution is to use canned lentils, although the flavor and texture will be somewhat sacrificed.

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Choose small green lentils, such as those from Castelluccio. If you prefer, you can also use slightly larger ones. Small red lentils, on the other hand, should be avoided, as they will crumble during cooking.

Prepare the classic soffritto with carrots, onions and celery according to tradition, but replace the minced meat with lentils. Then add the tomato passata and a little vegetable broth. Simmering will produce a firm, creamy and fragrant lentil ragu.

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You can add your favorite herbs and spices. We chose garlic and rosemary, which traditionally go well with lentils. But bay leaf, thyme or marjoram would also work, depending on your taste.

Find out how to make lentil Bolognese to season your pasta dishes! Very tasty, aromatic and vegetarian, follow our instructions and step-by-step tips!

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The timing does not include soaking the dried lentils. If you use canned lentils, these are already cooked, so no soaking is needed.

  • Prep Time: 15 Min
  • Cook Time: 40 Min
  • Servings: 6

  • 400 g (14 oz) of dried lentils. We used dried lentils, but if you prefer you can use 2 cans of lentils
  • 1 small carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 300 g (1 1/4 cup) of tomato passata or crashed peeled tomato
  • 300 ml (1 1/2 cups) of Vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Try this Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil DOP Umbria Riserva Marfuga
  • fine salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • a sprig of rosemary

Lentil Bolognese Recipe: Instructions


If, like us, you are using dried lentils, remember to soak them for about 10 hours (or overnight) before using them in the recipe. If you are using canned lentils, you do not need to soak them. Canned lentils are already cooked and ready to use. Rinse them well before using.

lentil bolognese step 1

Step 1) – Clean and chop the carrot, celery and onion.

Then in a large pot, sauté the chopped carrot, celery and onion in extra virgin olive oil.

lentil bolognese step 2

Step 2) – Now add the whole, peeled garlic cloves and a pinch of fine salt.

Cook over a moderate heat for a few minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the sauté from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, heat the vegetable broth.

lentil bolognese step 3

Step 3) – Next, add the lentils to the sauté.

Keep the heat on medium-high for a few minutes, stirring, so that the lentils are mixed with the vegetables.

Then remove the two garlic cloves.

lentil bolognese step 4

Step 4) – At this point, add the tomato passata (or crashed canned tomatoes) and stir.

Finally, add the hot broth. If you used canned lentils, add only 1/2 cup.

lentil bolognese step 5

Step 5) – Season with salt and pepper. Add the rosemary and simmer for 30 minutes (10 minutes if using canned lentils) over medium heat, covered, until the lentils are cooked.

lentil bolognese step 6

Step 6) – The end result will be a fairly thick lentil sauce. Therefore, check the cooking and turn the heat down to low if you see it getting too dry.

If on the other hand it’s still too liquid at the end of cooking, remove the lid and raise the heat to dry it out.

At this point, your lentil bolognese is ready to add flavor to your pasta dishes or to your fantastic recipes!

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How to Serve Lentil Bolognese

Lentil Bolognese is ideal for all uses of the traditional and classic Bolognese sauce. The main use is, of course, as a pasta sauce.

Of course, if you want to make a dish completely free of animal derivatives, you should not use the egg pasta that we traditionally associate with Ragù alla Bolognese.

  • PASTA: The ideal pasta for Lentil Bolognese is durum wheat pasta in the shape you prefer: Tagliatelle, rigatoni, orecchiette, for example. Whole grain pasta, for a more rustic dish, is also perfect with lentil ragu.
  • GNOCCHI: In addition to pasta, you can use lentil Bolognese to season gnocchi, stuff lasagna, or make a risotto.
  • BRUSCHETTA: Lentil Bolognese is also great on its own, as a side dish, or it’s delicious spread on bread, like a bruschetta.
  • POLENTA: Also great with a steaming polenta, a great comfort food.

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You can store Lentil Bolognese in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2-3 days.

You can also make it ahead and store in special glass jars in the freezer so it’s always available and can be used within three months.

At the time of use, you can either let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator or reheat it directly in the pan.

Lentils Bolognese: Some Variations

  • DRIED LENTILS: Dried lentils are the most commonly used lentils. Instructions on how best to cook them are usually printed on the package. Unlike other legumes, lentils do not always need to be soaked in water before cooking. Soaking means placing them in water for several hours to soften and rehydrate them. It’s usually recommended that larger lentils be soaked overnight (about 8 hours). Very small lentils (such as Castelluccio di Norcia) do not need to be soaked. Of course, the cooking time will be a little longer and you will need more vegetable broth to cook them perfectly. However, soaking the lentils in water for at least 1 hour improves their digestibility and shortens the cooking time. Even if you decide not to soak the lentils, it’s still a good idea to rinse them thoroughly before use. They may still contain some pebbles or soil.
  • CANNED LENTILS: There is no need to soak canned lentils because they are precooked and stored in their own water. They are ready to use. Just wash them carefully under running water before use.
  • MUSHROOMS: To add flavor to lentil Bolognese, many people add finely sliced fresh mushrooms or rehydrated dried mushrooms to the sauté. Consider this a more wintery version, perfect for seasoning pappardelle or enjoyed with polenta.

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Some Tips

  • WHITE WINE: Many people deglaze the lentil ragu with a glass of wine before adding the tomatoes, as in the Bolognese sauce recipe.  Actually, this step is not necessary in vegetarian sauces. The fats in the animal seasonings (butter, lard, and meat fats) are partially dissolved by the wine, which creates a creaminess that can give the dish softness. In addition, the acidity of the wine balances the full flavor of the fats. In lentil Bolognese, the degreasing function of wine is not present. However, if you want to add a touch of acidity and creaminess, you can definitely use wine. With the amounts given in the recipe, you will need about 100 ml (~1/2 cup) before adding the tomato passata.
  • PARMIGIANO CHEESE: If you like to sprinkle grated Parmigiano on pasta – and in Italy this is an ingrained and widespread habit – you can certainly use it in abundance on lentil ragu. Parmigiano goes very well with lentils and tomato; in fact, it makes the dish even more flavorful and nutritious!

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