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A Humble but Mighty Lentil Bolognese

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Every other Thursday, Gena Hamshaw of the blog Choosing Raw shares satisfying, flavorful recipes that also happen to be vegan.

Today: Gena's vegan lentil bolognese has all the heartiness of the traditionally meat-based dish -- and it even comes with a quick recipe for cashew Parmesan.

Within the pasta kingdom, few dishes deserve the title of “comfort food” more than pasta bolognese. The hearty, slow-simmering sauce transforms a bowl of noodles into a complete meal instantly, without any fuss or multiple pots. Of course, bolognese sauce is traditionally made with beef, veal, or pork, which is part of what accounts for its heartiness. To create a vegan/vegetarian version of this dish -- or a Meatless Monday edition -- one need look no further than the humble lentil.

Lentils are one of my favorite plant-based proteins. They’re cheap, they’re filling, they’re ridiculously healthy, and best of all, they’re versatile. They can be easily substituted for meat in all kinds of recipes, from soups and stews to Sloppy Joes.

More: The lentil love continues.

This recipe features traditional bolognese ingredients -- celery, carrots, olive oil, tomatoes -- but it uses lentils as the base. It’s the sort of meal you can pull together from your pantry at the last moment, which makes it perfect for spur-of-the-moment entertaining or a weeknight supper. As you’ll see, the sauce is bold and flavorful (another bragging point for lentils: they absorb flavor really well). I like to serve it with penne or rigatoni, but I also like to serve the leftovers, warmed, over a bowl of brown rice or quinoa. The recipe will make enough for leftovers, and if you like, you can freeze half and save it for a cool, rainy night.

Vegan Lentil Bolognese

Serves 6

For the bolognese:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup yellow or white onion, chopped
1 large rib celery, chopped
2 medium-sized carrots, chopped
1 cup button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup brown or green lentils, rinsed
One 28-ounce can diced or crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
Dash red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
12 ounces penne or rigatoni pasta (or linguine, if you prefer)

For the cashew Parmesan:

1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Lentil, Vegetable, Weeknight Cooking, Vegan