I looooove sinking my teeth into a rich, hearty lentil-walnut bolognese smothered over noodles and topped with savoury nutritional yeast, an extra sprinkle of salt, and some chilli flakes. Since I’ve made it approximately one million times and I’m the worst at following recipes (even my own!) it’s no surprise that I make it a few different ways.
You may have already tried my other lentil-walnut bolognese, which includes ground carrots and involves a food processor. It’s delicious and I recommend it. And below is my go-to for when I’m too lazy to get out the food processor (which is a funny kind of laziness because the food processor makes things faster… brains are weird).
If you’re curious about the role walnuts play: finely chopped walnuts add a toothsome ground texture that mimics ground meat. I also reach for walnuts because they’re a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. But when I’ve been out of walnuts I’ve made this with pecans, which work beautifully too, thanks to their earthy flavour and softer texture. If you’re nut-free, maybe try sunflower seeds?
Serves 4 to 6
1 lb pasta, any kind
One onion, chopped
One green pepper, chopped
2 cups mushrooms, any kind, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
A few tbsp red wine, or 1 tbsp balsamic or red wine vinegar (optional)
1/2 cup walnuts, minced as finely as you can manage
3 cups tomato sauce (I like passata sauce) or marinara
1.5 cups cooked brown lentils or a 14 oz can
1 to 2 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp salt
Cook pasta according to package directions (side note: I always set a timer for pasta using the time from the package—does anyone actually throw it at the wall?!)
Meanwhile, over med-high heat, sauté the onion and green pepper in a small amount of cooking oil (or water, if oil-free) until they start to soften, then add the mushrooms and garlic.
Once liquid from the mushrooms has cooked off, add the splash of wine or vinegar to deglaze the pan.
When the pan is mostly dry again, add the chopped walnuts and toast for a minute or two.
Add the tomato sauce, lentils, oregano, and salt, and simmer for a few minutes to combine the flavours.
Add the sauce to the pasta and serve!
To make the lentils from dry: simmer, covered, 1/2 cup rinsed brown or French lentils with 1.5 cups water for about 25 minutes, until tender. Drain well.
If you’re using a marinara sauce that already has oregano and salt in it, you will probably want to skip adding these ingredients, at least until after you’ve tasted it.
The splash of wine or vinegar adds extra savoury flavour but isn’t necessary. If you’re skipping it, just add the walnuts when the liquid released from the mushrooms is mostly evaporated.