Go big or go home, that’s what I always say.
Okay, maybe I don’t say that – like, ever. But with this hearty bean and lentil vegan bolognese, I’ll say it.
I started tinkering with legumes in marinara with this Red Lentil Pasta Sauce, but I just couldn’t stop there. Nope! Now I’ve added three – yep, three – different types of legumes to a marinara, and I love it even more.
Here’s what we’ve got, legume-wise, in this Hearty Bean & Lentil Vegan Bolognese:
- French green lentils
- White beans, and
- Red beans
And it’s really kind of glorious.
I mean, for one: Protein. We’ve definitely got protein here. Check.
And then there’s deliciousness. Absolute deliciousness. Check check.
I kept this marinara sauce super simple, yet it still sports bold flavors all up in that hearty thick goodness. San Marzano tomatoes, a decent amount of garlic, red pepper flakes for heat, basil infused into the mix … all good stuff.
As a vegetarian, one thing I don’t love about classic marinara or other pasta sauces is that, when served over pasta, it just doesn’t really seem all that satisfying. Sure, you can add veggie meatballs, and there are some darn good ones. But why not just throw some beans into the mix? How much easier is that?!
Plus, this sauce can go over so much more than pasta. The beans and lentils just add this heartiness that somehow expands its horizons beyond plain pasta or bread-dipping.
- Top spaghetti squash with it.
- Stuff a baked sweet potato with it.
- Make a hearty meatless lasagna with it.
- Bathe in it.
Okay, too far. Sorry, sorry.
Oh, and it’s excellent for freezing, too. Make a double (or triple!) batch and freeze most of it for easy-peasy busy weeknight dinners.
Hearty Bean & Lentil Vegan Bolognese
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion (diced)
- 6 medium cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt + more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper + more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 28-ounce cans whole San Marzano tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon vegan-friendly granulated sugar
- 1 cup French green lentils (rinsed)
- 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 15-ounce can small red beans or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- Large sprig of fresh basil
- Set a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for one more minute.
- Squeeze the tomatoes to crush and add them to the pot along with the juices from the can. Add the water and honey and stir to combine. Add the lentils. Increase heat to bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are almost cooked through, about 20 minutes.
- Stir in the beans and the sprig of basil and continue to cook until thick and rich, about 5-10 more minutes. Remove basil. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired.
- Serve over your favorite pasta (we're partial to whole wheat spaghetti with this sauce), spooned over spaghetti squash, or in a baked sweet potato.
- Sauce keeps refrigerated in an airtight container for 2-3 days. It also freezes very well.
First published September 17, 2015. Updated January 28, 2020.
Kare, this looks perfect! I’ve been trying to get more lentils into my life lately, but I totally know what you mean about those sad unsatisfying marinara sauces on vegetarian pasta. Legumes for the win!
I am so making this tonight. It has in it everything I love although i might use great northern instead of white kidney. Or not – I just love legumes of all kinds! Thank you so much for posting.
I do not like traditional tomato soup. That weird, creamy-ish, lackluster texture with a flavor somewhere between “generic canned tomato sauce” and “I combined some milk and ketchup and then nuked it” is so off-putting, and I cannot imagine why anyone would want to eat it. So imagine my surprise, that in making this meatless marinara sauce, that my initial reaction was, “This would make an awesome tomato soup!”
I served my children’s sauce over low-carb pasta, and my own in a deep soup bowl. I toasted a thick slice of 21-grain bread with shredded sharp cheddar under the broiler and, for the first time in my life, understood the comfort of tucking into a meal of grilled cheese and “tomato soup.”
My kids loved their spaghetti, my sister (the original carnivore-in-residence) ate two helpings, and my husband asked me to keep the recipe in our regular rotation of Meatless Monday meals.
Make this. Eat this. I hope you find it as flavorful, filling, and enjoyable as we did.
A tomato soup with lentils! Yum! I love this idea and may have to try to make it happen! I’m so glad everyone liked the sauce. 🙂
This was awful, followed the recipe and it came out sludgy and bland, would definitely not recommend. So many better vegan pasta dishes
So sorry you didn’t like it! It’s one of my favorites.
Even mine turned out bland. The idea is pretty great though!
I jazzed up my dish with some vinegar(sour), mayo + milk(creaminess) and extra spices like cayenne, dry basil, oregano, onion/ ginger/ garlic powders. Try with that next time.
I thought this recipe turned out excellent. I added baby portobello mushrooms and some oregano. I also used vegetable stock instead of water.
Love the addition of mushrooms and stock for more flavor! Thanks Robin!
Love this! I was worried it would turn out bland because it was so simple to make, but it was very flavourful. Great sauce for spaghetti squash!
I’m so glad you like it! Love it with spaghetti squash – wish I had some right now!
Followed the recipe – very good