Lentil Bolognese Recipe

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This post was created as part of a relationship in which I was sponsored by Weight Watchers and given a free three month subscription to try their new Personal Coaching product and write about my experience. Though I was compensated for my time and commitment, all views, positive and negative, are my own. This post may also contain affiliate links. #WeightWatchers #WWsponsored

Lentil Bolognese | http://www.ihearteating.com | #WeightWatchers Follow Me on Pinterest

This is probably the hardest post that I’ve written. I’m not super comfortable talking about myself, so I tend to just talk about the food instead. Having people criticize my recipes can be hard enough, but sharing extremely personal things like my struggle to lose weight is way (way, way) out of my comfort zone. I decided that I wanted to share some things about my life, though, because it will make the direction that I’m going in on here make more sense.

In September, I had my third little one. Since this was my third time, I figured I knew what to expect. Except that this time hasn’t been like the last two time, and I have really been struggling to get my weight loss going this time. I definitely got off track while I was pregnant. I had hyperemesis during the beginning of my pregnancy. Once it was under control, I was hungry constantly, and so I ate. After being so sick, I was beyond excited to be able to eat and to have food taste good again. It wasn’t just how much I was eating, though. At first, I craved healthy foods, and I ate lots of veggies and salads and good stuff. Towards the end, I craved more junk food, and that’s when the weight jumped on.

Lentil Bolognese | http://www.ihearteating.com | #WeightWatchers Follow Me on Pinterest I gained about the same amount of weight during all three of my pregnancies. The last two times, it started to come off right away. I didn’t diet or do anything special to try to lose it, and it took me about a year both times to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. This time, though, the weight seems to be pretty happy hanging around. So, when I had the opportunity to try Weight Watchers, I jumped at it. I certainly want to lose this baby weight, but more than that, I want to work on getting healthy again. I love sweets, which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who checks out my site. I really didn’t realize how much sugar I was eating and how my eating habits were affecting my family until my little ones started asking for dessert after breakfast, after lunch, and after dinner. That was when I realized that it’s time to get back to a more balanced diet.

One of the reasons that I wanted to try Weight Watchers was because I wanted to be able to keep cooking and be the one making the choices about what I eat. I know myself well enough to know that if I tried to cut out sugar altogether or give up bread or something like that, that it wouldn’t work for me. I want to still be able to indulge once in a while; I just have to work on that once in a while part. Since I’ll still be cooking, it also means that my whole family will be eating healthier food right along with me. I’m also working with a personal coach as part of the program. Honestly, I was so nervous before I talked with her! I’m a pretty do-it-myself person, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was worried that it was going to be weird talking to her, but she was so genuine and so encouraging that it didn’t seem weird at all. There was no guilt or judgment, just understanding. It was really helpful to talk to someone and discuss long and short term goals and strategies. Lentil Bolognese | http://www.ihearteating.com | #WeightWatchers Follow Me on Pinterest

So, why am I telling you all of this? Well, the recipes that I share on here reflect what we’re eating. Everything that shows up on here was first tried out on my family and friends. So, starting around the beginning of the new year, you’ll be seeing more variety on here. There will still be recipes for rich, decadent desserts, but they will be fewer and farther between, Instead, there will be more recipes for healthier options. Even though I don’t talk much about my life, I do want to be honest with what I do share. So, I don’t want to pretend like I can eat a lots of cake, cookies, and other no-so-healthy food and lose weight because I can’t. The struggle is real, my friends. And with that, on to the food!

Growing up, my mom made this great dish of lentils and rice, and I loved it. It was one of my favorite dinners, and I still love all things lentil. This Lentil Bolognese is my healthier take on the sauce. I’m not going to say that you’ll think you’re eating meat when you have this because you won’t. Instead, it’s delicious in its own right. The sauce is packed with veggies and has lots of flavor.  This sauce is incredibly hearty and super satisfying. Since it’s so hearty, it’s great served over a sturdy pasta like a rigatoni (whole wheat, extra fiber, or just regular pasta all work). FYI – The brand of red lentils that I used was a 4 point brand, so this sauce was 7 points per serving. There are lots of brands of lentils, so please choose according to your needs.

Lentil Bolognese
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 7 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
  • 1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
  • 2 (14.5 oz.) cans diced Italian tomatoes
  • 2 T. dried sweet basil
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 c. red lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 2 c. water
  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet.
  2. Add onion, celery, and carrot.
  3. Cook, stirring as needed, until softened, about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, for 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in tomato paste, and cook, stirring it in, for 1 minutes.
  6. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes with juice, basil, oregano, baking soda, and salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Stir in lentils and water.
  8. Simmer, stirring regularly, until lentils have softened, about 20-30 minutes.

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  1. dks64 (Heather) says

    I didn’t read the comments and made the mistake of using brown lentils. They ended up cooking mostly, so not very crunchy luckily. I knew better, but threw them in without precooking because I was rushing to put dinner together. Oops! Overall, it’s a very good recipe! I added a lot of garlic salt (grinder from Trader Joe’s) and some extra spices. This is definitely a keeper recipe. Thanks for sharing!

    • says

      I’m glad you were able to salvage the brown lentils! Hopefully you’ll like it even more when you try it with the red lentils. =)

  2. Sue says

    My husband and I are new to vegan eating. I’ve been trying to find recipes that everyone in the family will enjoy. Your lentil spaghetti sauce has been our favorite so far! We all loved it’s! Thanks for posting.

    • says

      The baking soda just helps cut some of the acidity in the sauce. Some people like to add a little sugar, but baking soda is just another way to do this!

    • says

      Thanks! I haven’t tried freezing it, but someone else commented and said that they froze part of the sauce to save it. Hope that helps! =)

  3. Trish says

    Thanks so much for such an easy, nutritious recipe. I followed the recipe exactly except that I added a few shakes of turmeric. it’s delicious. Just what I needed on a cool, rainy day.

    • says

      I’m so glad that you liked it!! The turmeric sounds like a tasty addition! Thank you for taking the time to come back and leave a comment! =)

  4. Wilkjn says

    Hi! I have yet to try this recipe, but I have a question– don’t red lentils basically turn to mush once cooked? So what is causing the sauce to look so chunky? It looks like there are dark red kidney beans in the photographs, what are those? Are those the tomatoes? Having a hard time reconciling the photos with the recipe. Thanks, and can’t wait to try it!

    • says

      They soften, but the only time I’ve had them turn mushy was when I cooked them in a slow cooker for an extended period of time. I think it’s the tomatoes that may look like kidney beans. =) There are also pieces of carrot and celery that add texture to the sauce. Hope you enjoy!

  5. John. says

    I cooked this for about 35 minutes and the lentils never softened. Was I supposed to soak them first? I’ve never cooked lentils before.

    • says

      Nope! I’m sorry that your lentils didn’t soften. Did you happen to use brown lentils? The only time that I’ve heard about anyone having trouble with the cooking time was if they used a different type of lentil.

  6. Angela says

    Finding healthy recipes that will go over with my son who is on the autism spectrum has always been a challenge. He struggles with food allergies and has food sensory issues; however, one certainly fit the bill! He loved it!! The only change I made was to purée it all in my food processer at the end so it looked and felt more like traditional spaghetti sauce. I served it with ancient grain pasta and a little parmesan. It’s a successful week when I get a healthy meal in him. Thanks!!

    • says

      I’m so glad that your son liked it! I have one child who has issues with food textures, but I can only imagine the challenge you face. What a great idea, though!! Thank you for taking the time to come back and leave a comment!

    • Viviana says

      Making this right now and will purée it too so my 1 year old can have some. I’ll be using it on top of spaghetti as well, thanks!

  7. Franny D says

    Loved this dish. Great for the vegeatarian and the omnivor. Will definitely make this again! Thank you! Ps. My husband ate it for breakfast.

  8. Jennifer says

    I made this for my family tonight and they thoroughly enjoyed it. I made mine even more WW friendly by serving mine with spaghetti squash instead of pasta. The boys had it with pasta because quite frankly the need the carbsfor energy. I will definitely be adding this one to the tried and true recipes.

    • says

      I’m really glad that your family enjoyed it! What a great idea! I think I’ll give the spaghetti squash a try next time. Thanks for the idea and for coming back to leave a comment! =)

  9. says

    I made this for my family last night and they loved it! They’re not vegan and really have no interest in transitioning but with recipes like this I think I can get them to start thinking about making steps forward :)
    Alexis Krcelic recently posted…Happy New YearMy Profile

  10. says

    I really appreciate your honesty in this. Just came across your recipe on Pinterest and it looks delicious! We’re trying to eat healthier too so I’m going to try this this week.

    • says

      Thank you! Eating healthier is definitely a journey, and I wish you lots of luck with it! Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do! =)

  11. Staci says

    Serious question: I used brown lentils and I never fully cooked down, it’s still good and delicious, however after lots of extra water and an hour of simmering it’s still crunchy. I love crockpot meals do you think I could make this in the crockpot and it will soften the lentils more, I have a WHOLE POT and I want to eat it.

    • says

      I’ve never made brown lentils in the crock pot, but my guess would be that it would work. I’ve made red lentils in the crock pot, and I found that I had to watch the liquid level to keep them from drying out. Hope that helps! Good luck!!

  12. Monique says

    Hi Kate, thanks for this recipe. Can’t wait to make it today. Do you think this sauce goes with brown rice too? Or only pasta?

  13. Diana says

    I am very much looking forward to making this tonight. In Australia we call tomato sauce what you guys call Ketchup, so I’m alittle confused what to add in place of the sauce. What’s the difference between diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce?

    • says

      Good question! The tomato sauce in this recipe is a thin sauce made from well-pureed tomatoes. If tomato puree is available, that would be your best bet. Depending on how thick the puree is, you may need to thin it a bit with some veggie stock. The diced tomatoes are a canned chopped tomato with their accompanying juices.

      If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask!

      • Krystal says

        That’s way better than using sugar! Its what a lot of people do and its gross!! Mental noted.
        Im attempting to find vegan alternatives to the food we like..we do like spaghetti and i want my husband to be able to eat it without missing the meat. I think the lentils here will help with that texture. Thanks for the recipe!

        • says

          Finding vegan alternatives can be so difficult! My sister is vegan, and it definitely takes some work! I hope you and your family enjoy this recipe as much as we do! =)

        • says

          Great tip! I’ve heard of using baking soda or sugar but hadn’t heard of using cinnamon. Thank you for sharing! =)

  14. Sylvia Marvelli says

    I’m not seeing any information about preparing the lentils. You say 2 cups lentils + 2 cups water. After cooking, the lentils and remaining water are to be added to the other ingredients. It is my understanding that the are are always 2 parts water to 1 part lentils. If that is accurate the lentils will not even be cooked if using 1 part water to 1 part lentils let alone expecting leftover water. Please advise.

    • says

      I’m sorry if this isn’t clear, but you add the lentils and water in step 7, and you cook them until soft in step 8. You don’t precook them before adding them to the sauce.

      As far as the proportions of liquid to lentils, the sauce already contains additional liquid. That liquid, in addition to the 2 cups of water, is enough to cook the lentils.

  15. Rachel says

    This has a delicious flavor! Unfortunately, I didn’t have red lentils so I tried using the brownish-green ones I had on hand. That was a bad idea because they never fully cooked and remained quite crunchy. But the flavor of the sauce was so yummy, we ate it anyway! After buying some red lentils, I realized they are much thinner, which I am assuming is why they work better in this recipe and cook up faster.

    I am making it again tomorrow with the red lentils! Can’t wait to enjoy it again with some friends who are vegan!

      • Jamie Atkinson says

        Having experienced beans not fully cooked I went looking, many years ago pre-internet. I found that adding tomato products to beans prior to them being fully cooked stops the beans from cooking. Thus they remain crunchy no matter how long you cook them. So now I make sure that the beans are fully cooked prior to adding tomato products. Heading off to make this now….

        • says

          If you pre-cook the lentils, you may need to adjust the cooking time so as not to end up with mushy lentils. Good luck! =)

  16. Gail says

    Oh my gosh. . .this was fabulous. I added a little extra garlic and an additional teaspoon of italian seasoning and served it over spaghetti squash. A new staple in my house! Thank you for sharing the deliciousness!

  17. Brittany says

    This is just what I’ve been looking for! Planning on making it and serving it over spaghetti squash tomorrow. Thank you so much for sharing. ♡

  18. Laura says

    Do you think this would freeze well? I am planning to make it tonight but it seems like it is going to make a LOT. :) Looks delish btw!

    • says

      Thanks! I think so. I haven’t tried it, but I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t. If you try freezing it, I’d be interested to hear how it turns out!

  19. melissa says

    Thanks so much for posting this. With a high schooler who’s the only vegetarian in the house, I’m always looking for recipes that we’ll all enjoy, especially ones with protein. Thanks for this; we’re all looking forward to a healthier 2015!

    • says

      That can be hard! For a while, my sister and I were vegetarian and another sister was vegan. So, I know how difficult it can be trying to cook with different diets in mind. Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment!

  20. Patricia says

    Kate, this looks so good I would want to just eat it from a spoon!! I love the combination of lentils and tomatoes. And I love eating good tasting food that is also good for you! Thanks for posting this recipe!

  21. says

    Love the idea of a veggie bolognese! I don’t eat a lot of meat so this is a perfect substitution. Making healthy recipes is a good habit and I’m sure you can make it. Good luck!
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