Vegan Lentil Bolognese with Cashew Parmesan

March 14, 2015
8 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 47 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

Nearly this entire meal can be made with pantry ingredients, which makes it ideal for last-minute entertaining or for a weeknight supper. There's some simmering involved, but the recipe is simple to make, and the leftovers keep (and freeze) beautifully. The cashew Parmesan is an optional but tasty topper: Keep some handy for pasta dishes, for sprinkling on grain bowls, or even for topping roasted vegetables. —Gena Hamshaw

What You'll Need
  • For the vegan lentil bolognese:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 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
  • 1 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
  • 1 pinch 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
  1. For the vegan lentil bolognese:
  2. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and carrots. Cook for 8 minutes, or until the onions are clear and all of the vegetables are soft.
  3. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft and have released some liquid and the garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add the lentils, tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, water, rosemary, thyme, and oregano to the pot, along with a dash of red pepper flakes and the salt. Stir the mixture well, and bring it to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer and cover. Cook for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are cooked through but not mushy. If the mixture becomes overly thick (if it's tough to stir and no liquid is visible at the bottom), add some water by the 1/4 cup. When the sauce is finished, stir in the fresh basil.
  5. When the sauce is fifteen minutes from being done, heat a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and toss it with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.
  6. Divide the pasta into six serving bowls and top with the bolognese sauce. Serve with an extra sprinkle of basil and cashew Parmesan (see below), if desired.
  1. For the cashew Parmesan:
  2. Add all the ingredients to a food processor fitted with the S blade. Pulse repeatedly, until the cashews are broken down, and then process the mixture until it's taken on a crumbly texture (similar to the size of grated parmesan). Serve with any pasta dish.
  3. Stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container, the cashew Parmesan will keep for 2 weeks.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • FamilyStyle Food
    FamilyStyle Food
  • Cheryl
  • Jill Collard
    Jill Collard
  • Elizabeth Streeter
    Elizabeth Streeter
  • Anthony Ramos
    Anthony Ramos

32 Reviews

sarahhtk June 27, 2023
So delicious. We started cooking lentils separately and get excellent results every time. We have one non-mushroom lover in the family so we pulse the mushrooms in the food processor to disguise them. 100% success with raves from all. Accidentally forgot basil last night and it was still amazing.
veggiegirl September 29, 2020
Probably the best bolognese recipe I have every had! have to agree with the amount of liquid so played it by eye and added what I thought I needed, is usually more pasta sauce and some water. Also put in double the amount of garlic
FamilyStyle F. September 10, 2019
I made a version of this recipe, but it really needs much more liquid than the recipe calls for. I added about 2 cups water. The lentils cooked through in 30 minutes and the sauce was nice and thick.
BAD C. April 6, 2019
This sounded great, but I too had a problem with the lentils not cooking. I believe the recipe is flawed. The lentils should be cooked separately and added to the sauce. The acid in tomato sauce inhibits the cooking of lentils/legumes. If you are encountering the problem mid recipe- add broth or water to cut the acid, and the lentil should cook.
Cheryl November 20, 2018
Really terrific! Based on a recipe on this site, I used 1/2 red lentils and 1/2 brown. Cooked for about 45 mins and all is well (can't remember which recipe). Used fresh herbs as I had them on hand. No red wine open, so used vegetable broth (also used broth in place of water) and added about 1 tbsp Sherry vinegar. The "Parmesan cheese" is delicious. Tempted to eat it with a spoon. Thank you!
Cheryl November 20, 2018
And I minced the celery and chopped the carrots fine in a food processor, which is how I make Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce found here on the site. In her book, she calls for these to be minced.
Heather September 14, 2017
wow, I have to say this dish was quite bad. I read the thread of comments before deciding to cook this dish and bought new lentils from the store.I followed the directions but the lentils were hard after cooking them for 30-35 minutes so I continued to cook them and adding water so that it would not get mushy. Well 50 minutes later the lentils are still hard. Never Again! what a waste of time.
Honor H. September 18, 2017
Sounds like you bought lentils that were sitting on the grocery shelf too long. It's happened to me before too. I make this all the time and it consistently turns out great. Sometimes to get a feel for a new recipe, you have to try it more than one time
Jill C. August 26, 2017
Made this last night, it was absolutely delicious. Will make again!
Lindsay November 4, 2016
What can I substitute for the red wine?
Robin December 13, 2016
I would just use broth.
fuzzytop July 18, 2016
Thanks, Honor.... that's a good description, bread crumbs and chicken soup. Maybe they've improved the product since the last time I tasted any, 20-30 years ago. Back then, it had an intense vegetable-protein flavor, very cloying. I'll pick up a small jar and try it again, although being a meat-eater (and vitamin-taker) I don't think I have a B12 deficiency.
fuzzytop July 17, 2016
I am not a vegetarian, but this recipe sounded good, right up until I saw "nutritional yeast", which (to me at least) is hyper-gakky. I'll be making it soon, but I'm leaving that out.
Honor H. July 18, 2016
My husband and I are vegans and use nutritional yeast a lot. It's very healthy because it is rich in vitamin B12. I think it taste a little like bread crumbs seasoned with chicken soup. However, it's has been a long time since I consumed chicken or chicken broth. You can sprinkle it on pasta and salads. As we age, we all struggle getting enough B12 because the body just isn't as efficient at absorbing it through the intestinal lining, so nutritional yeast is a cruelty free, healthy option. I hope this quells your "hyper-gakkiness" a little.
Elizabeth S. November 23, 2015
Could I throw all of this into the slow cooker and cook it that way instead?
Anthony R. May 20, 2015
I'd like to try this but I cannot stand mushrooms. Can I simply leave them out or would I need to substitute something in their place?
Honor H. April 6, 2015
I discard my lentils after six months or so, because when you buy them at the grocery they've been on the shelf for a while already. My husband and I made the sauce and the lentils turned out with a nice texture. I thought it was an excellent recipe.
Sally April 6, 2015
When are lentils old?
Jocelyn April 6, 2015
I was actually looking this up on the internet (looking up beans in general), and can't find an answer - except: when they take a loooooooong time to cook! One clue is whether they are past the expiration date. But for the most part, one really has little or no idea of actual storage time of dried legumes unless you yourself have had them on hand for years. It was suggested that soaking old dried legumes for a 24 hours rather than simply overnight often helps significantly.
jselt53 April 4, 2015
dissapointed. made this for my daughter who is vegan. the lentils never sufficiently softened despite 2.5 hours of cooking and adding extra liquid. I did substitute vegetable broth for the water. is that what could have spoiled it? next time i would pre-soak the lentils. the cashew parm was a nice touch.
Jocelyn April 4, 2015
I suspect the lentils were very old. Lentils should only take about 45 minutes or so to cook. I don't see how using vegetable broth could have made much if any difference.
Michelle S. October 20, 2016
Im a bit late to the party but salt can stop dried pulses from softening - I imagine there would have been a fair amount in the stock
Honor H. March 30, 2015
My husband and I made this dish and it was delicious. We did take some liberty with the recipe and added more carrots, celery, mushrooms and garlic. So full of flavor. I was very pleased with the outcome…a wonderful sauce.
Bess March 25, 2015
I made this for dinner the other night and it was fantastic! I agree it would make a great dish for entertaining. I planned on freezing some for later, but it was all gone...
Jocelyn March 22, 2015
Look forward to trying this as a sauce for zucchini noodles!
Julie March 22, 2015
Great idea about using this to stuff zucchini farant!
Suzanne A. March 22, 2015
Does this freeze well?
Gena H. March 22, 2015
Suzanne, it does indeed! For up to a month.