Make Ahead

Red Lentil Pasta Sauce

May 15, 2011
1 Ratings
  • Makes about 2 quarts
Author Notes

As much as we love meat sauce for pasta, we often will do this meatless version - packed with protein and fiber, it's extremely inexpensive and carries a real punch. If you're not into a little spicy, omit the crushed red pepper in this one. We serve it over spaghetti with a side of spinach garlic bread (mom always told me to eat my spinach!). Blend it smooth and use it as a marinara sauce or add chicken or vegetable broth and make a great soup or gazpacho by adding some fresh veggies. —inpatskitchen

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 to 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 28 ounce can of good quality tomatoes, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 to 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 5 or 6 leaves sliced fresh basil
  • Cooked pasta
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling over each serving ( optional )
  1. Place the celery, carrot, onion, bell pepper and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is pretty finely ground ( like a sofrito ).
  2. In a 4 to 5 quart pot heat the olive oil, add the processed mixture with the crushed red pepper, basil, oregano and fennel seed and saute for a few minutes until soft and fragrant.
  3. Add the tomatoes and lentils and stir.
  4. Add the salt and pepper and 3 cups of the water, bring up to the boil and then simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. If after the 30 minutes the sauce seems too thick, add another cup of water and continue to simmer another 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. If you like, blend the mixture a little with an immersion blender, just enough to thicken the sauce.
  7. Stir in the parsley and fresh basil just before serving over cooked pasta.
  8. NOTE: Blend until smooth for a smooth marinara sauce or add broth and veggies for an easy gazpacho or soup.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Cheryl
  • healthierkitchen
  • thirteenJ
  • inpatskitchen
  • susan g
    susan g

Recipe by: inpatskitchen

I think I get my love for food and cooking from my mom, who was an amazing cook. She would start baking and freezing a month before Christmas in order to host our huge open house on Christmas afternoon. I watched and I this day I try not to procrastinate when it comes to entertaining. My cooking style is pretty much all over the place, although I'm definitely partial to Greek and Italian cuisine. Oh yes, throw a little Cajun in there too!

13 Reviews

Cheryl July 27, 2015
Oh. My. Goodness. I made the garlic bread mentioned in the comments. Not sur I can trust myself to make again. I made the bread first in a hotter oven than I cook the salmon, which I made this evening. While waiting for the salmon to finish, I inhaled the garlic-spinach bread and really didn't wat the salmon but I talked myself into a small piece. I deluded myself into thinking that the wilted spinach counted as a vegetable so didn't make the planned salad. I handily ate 3 healthy portions of bread. I advise all to steer clear of the bread--it's just too good!
inpatskitchen July 28, 2015
Thanks Cheryl!
Cheryl July 26, 2015
Cooked this today and am looking forward to eating this week (of course I have already sampled!). I needed to cook the sauce much longer--an additional 1-1/2 hours, at least. I wanted the lentils softer, not chewy, and I processed it in the food processor. Forgot to add the bell pepper, which I would do in the future. I also added about 1/2 tsp. porcini powder, which I learned about elsewhere on the site (ground dried porcinis) and it gave a good unami flavor. For my taste, I would not add the red pepper flakes again. In the future, I would double the carrot. I'm grateful to have a great-tasting and nutritious non-meat meal.
inpatskitchen July 26, 2015
I like your additions..thanks for making this!
healthierkitchen June 9, 2013
I finally made this tonight and it was delicious! Both my meat ragu loving husband and vegetarian daughter ate it happily. Thanks!
inpatskitchen June 9, 2013
So happy everyone enjoyed!!
thirteenJ March 3, 2013
Yum! I love using lentils in a tomato pasta sauce!
They also make great Sloppy Lennies!
I'd rather get my greens via bread rather than salad,too!
inpatskitchen March 3, 2013
Thanks so much thirteenJ!
healthierkitchen February 26, 2013
Great idea, Pat! but I'm also intrigued by the idea of spinach garlic bread. do tell....
inpatskitchen February 26, 2013
It's not really a recipe I've ever written down but I smash a lot of garlic in softened butter, spread on a sliced baguette (or something similar), top with steamed spinach, sprinkle with mozzarella and bake in a hot oven for 10 or 15 minutes. Pretty good with the pasta and we get our greens(LOL)! Thanks for asking!
healthierkitchen February 26, 2013
sounds great!
inpatskitchen December 24, 2011
Thanks so much susan g!! It's only been in the past year or two that I've used red lentils and I too find them visually appealing!
susan G. December 23, 2011
This was our dinner tonight -- enjoyed, appreciated, and even a medium serving was pleasantly filling. I like the visual effect of the red lentils -- and the nutritional profile should be impressive. Comfort food!