Go big or go home, that’s what I always say. Okay … maybe I don’t say that – like, ever. But with this hearty vegetarian 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 the situation, and I love it even more.
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?!
Here’s what we’ve got, legume-wise, in this Bean Bolognese:
- White beans
- Red beans
- and lentils for good measure!
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.
Vegetarian Bolognese Ingredients
The full list of ingredients? We’ve got:
- San Marzano tomatoes
- Onion and a decent amount of garlic sauteed in olive oil
- Red pepper flakes for heat
- Basil infused into the mix
- Cannellini beans or your favorite white beans
- Red beans or kidney beans
- French green lentils
Ideas for Serving Vegetarian Bolognese
Plus, this bean bolognese 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 (here, Mom on Timeout shows you how!)
- Make a hearty meatless lasagna with it. On my list for a future new recipe.
More Hearty Pasta Sauce Recipes
- I also created this Red Lentil Pasta Sauce. Smoother yet still protein-rich and just a huge fave all around.
- Five-Minute Vegan Alfredo Sauce is super easy and so creamy and delicious.
- Romesco Sauce is delicious tossed with pasta!
- No anchovies needed in this umami-rich Vegan Puttanesca Sauce.
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.