Having a staple hearty tomato sauce to top your favorite pasta, is a must-have for any kitchen. This is a simple plant-based lentil bolognese version of traditional and tastes just as delicious.
This recipe is one of many definitions of feel-good food, it’s warm, hearty, keeps you feeling full (hello fiber, protein, and healthy fats), it’s easy to make, uses affordable ingredients, and it’s a crowd pleaser. There’s nothing more you could ask for with a staple recipe for the fall and winter months.
What Is Bolognese?
Traditionally bolognese is known for it’s delicious slow-cooked tomato sauce flavor, typically made with ground beef or pork. The remaining ingredients in traditional bolognese include things you may assume are in a tomato sauce including tomato paste, garlic, basil, oregano, black pepper, salt, and olive oil, overall a dish that’s very easy to transform into a hearty plant-based meal.
It’s typically served with parmesan cheese, so in this case, we’re pulling out our Not Cheese Cheesy Dust to sprinkle on top to boost the B vitamins, protein, and get a similar umami delicious flavor. You can also serve it with fresh basil and red pepper flakes.
The pasta traditionally used with bolognese is a flat wide noodle called tagliatelle, not spaghetti although there have been many variations made called spaghetti bolognese. Since I prefer to use brown rice pasta or ones that are gluten-free, in our recipe for plant-based bolognese we’re going to use a brown rice tagliatelle by Jovial (which I found at Whole Foods, you can also order it on Amazon), otherwise a couple other gluten-free pasta that is great include Trader Joe’s brand. You can use whatever pasta you enjoy, gluten-free or not, just make it work for you and your lifestyle!
Calling All Plant-based Proteins!
A dish like a bolognese is a great one-pot meal to use as leftovers for the week ahead, it can feed multiple people in your family, and you can use the recipe in a variety of ways — a huge win in my book. Lentils are the main star ingredients in this plant-based bolognese, but it doesn’t stop there, we also are going to use ground walnuts which rival the dishes signature texture of using ground beef sans the meat. In combination with the cooked lentils and ground walnuts and topping it with a dusting of the Not Cheese Cheesy Dust, which is so delicious and easy to make and store for weeks at a time.
Lentils are a type of legume or dried bean that’s round in shape and about the size of a #2 pencil eraser. They’re found in a variety of colors and textures such as red, brown, and green. Brown lentils are firmer than the other two and are great to use in recipes like this one where you want to retain the texture, red lentils are the softest texture of the three and great for using in daal recipes.
All lentils have an earthy semi-neutral taste to them, which makes it perfect for using these in a wide variety of ways and soaking up the flavor of the recipe you’re using them in. Just like other dried beans, lentils are very affordable, can store for long periods of time, are easy to cook, and can be used in many ways with cooking, and are a good source of protein for you if you’re looking to incorporate more plant-based proteins in your life.
Regardless of what lifestyle you practice, we all can benefit from a diet rich in plants, fiber, minerals, phytonutrients, and all the health benefits that result from some of our favorite plant-based proteins including lentils and walnuts.
- 1 cup cooked lentils = about 18g protein
- 1 cup of chopped walnuts = about 18g protein
Just 1 cup of cooked lentils contains about 15 grams of fiber (most of which is soluble fiber), which is a significant amount of fiber. To put it in context, if you ate a full cup of lentils, you would have met almost 50% of your daily needs of fiber (based on 35g / day which is “standard”, some folks need more, some need less).
Lentils, walnuts, and tomatoes all contain varying amounts of fiber, lentils being the richest source in this recipe. In a nutshell, fiber our digestive system move along properly, helps us stay full for a longer period of time, and releases a steady flow of energy into our bodies by decreasing the rate at which our body breaks down carbohydrates and releases sugar into our bloodstream.
Healthy Fats — Omega-3’s
Walnuts and their mineral content, antioxidants, healthy fats, and plant-based protein and fiber have been shown in some studies to help lower cholesterol, improve brain and behavioral health, reduce heart disease, increase bone health, help with blood sugar control and type 2 diabetes, provide anti-cancer benefits, and anti-inflammatory benefits.
1 cup of chopped walnuts contains 76g of fat, mostly from polyunsaturated fat, then monounsaturated fat, and little saturated fat. A common serving size for walnuts is about 1/4 cup, so per serving walnuts contain roughly 19g of fat.