Lentil Bolognese (Vegan)

March 08, 2015

Happy spring! The snow is starting to melt a little bit here. We'll probably get at least one more snowstorm before spring really starts, but I'm hopeful! This winter has dragged on. I think it went by really slowly because I wasn't in university, and I'm just so excited for summer. Apart from the mosquitoes, summers are really lovely here. I'm really, really looking forward to it.

Today's recipe is something I make all the time. We eat a lot of pasta, which isn't really represented on here. I think vegetarians tend to gravitate toward pasta dishes and I want to provide an alternative - not that I don't love it! This is another pasta dish that can be thrown together really quickly. Unlike that recipe, though, this is extra high in protein because of the lentils. If you like lots of texture in your sauce, you'll like this. It freezes fabulously too.

Because it is something you're looking to make quickly, a couple extra things are needed to boost flavour. If you have time, let it simmer away for longer. Always let your tomato based dishes cook for a long time, if you can, to develop flavour. If you're hungry now, it takes about half an hour. Not bad.

I kind of struggled with pictures for this recipe. I've been thinking about posting it for months, but always end up balking because I don't like the photos enough. It's a good recipe though!

This makes way more than you'll ever need for one meal! You can either half the recipe or make it all and freeze some.

1 large red onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced*
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
800 ml crushed tomatoes (a big jar from the supermarket)*
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup red lentils
2 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon maple syrup
Salt and pepper to taste
Hot pepper flakes (optional)
Fresh or dried basil to taste*
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach, or about 3/4 cup frozen

In a large saucepan, heat some oil on medium. Once the pan is hot, add the diced onion. Cook for a couple of minutes or until it's mostly translucent. Add the garlic and stir a few times. You don't want to burn the garlic. It's sensitive.

Add the balsamic vinegar and stir again, then pour in the crushed tomatoes. Stir in the tomato paste.

Toss the lentils and vegetable stock in, stirring again. It might not want to combine at first, but just keep stirring until it does. Add the maple syrup (it helps cut the acid from the tomatoes, don't leave it out), salt, pepper, hot pepper, and basil (if dried). Simmer over low-medium heat for about fifteen minutes, or until the lentils are soft. Add the spinach at the last minute along the basil (if fresh). It should only take a minute or two for the spinach to cook.

While the lentils are cooking, you can boil the water for the spaghetti and cook it. It takes about the same time as the sauce if you wait until the lentils are in. Make sure to salt your noodle water generously, and don't rinse the noodles after draining! If you're not vegan, sprinkle a little parmesan on top before you eat it. If you are, I suggest substituting hemp hearts.

This is a pretty flexible recipe that can be changed up as you like. I often grate vegetables like carrots or zucchini to add to the sauce, and diced tomatoes can be used instead of crushed if you're using a short noodle. You can, of course, use your preferred gluten-free noodles or whatever other kind of vessel you want to put this sauce on.

1. I actually use about five cloves of garlic when I'm making this for myself. Two cloves is the suggested amount if you're serving to other people, or if you're planning on talking to other people within the next few hours.
2. Don't mix up crushed tomatoes with readymade tomato sauce!
3. See the recipe instructions for how to treat the basil differently, depending on what state it's in. Dried basil tastes quite different from fresh too. I kind of hate it.

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