This Simple Vegan Lentil Bolognese is the perfect quick weeknight meal for the whole family. It’s gluten-free, comes together in under 30 minutes, and uses store-bought ingredients for an easy “dump & go” dinner!
Weeknight Meals for the Win
I am all about those quick and simple weeknight meals! Sometimes when I am planning out my menu for the week I get a little over-ambitious. I think I am going to have all this time and energy to prep and cook a meal with 5 different parts and steps. Some days I do enjoy those kinds of recipes as cooking is very therapeutic for me, but most days when dinner time hits, a million different unexpected things have come up in my day and the “what’s for dinner” question gets pushed farther out of my mind.
I always keep the ingredients for this lentil bolognese on hand for those kinds of days specifically! This has become my go-to dinner when I want something delicious, filling, and most importantly, quick! Using pre-cooked, store-bought ingredients, this “dump & go” family comfort meal can be ready in under 30-minutes but have just as much flavor as if it had been cooking all day.
Shortcuts Have Been Made
Ok, let’s get one thing clear: I am not Italian (as much as I have always wanted to be) and this is not an authentic bolognese. It does not use meat, carrots, celery, cream, or even the right pasta. The one thing it does have in common though is the delicious, “stick to your ribs” fullness that comes from a hearty meat sauce.
If you have some extra time on your hands and want to saute some carrots and celery with the onions, that would be great! But since the main thing I love about this dish is the minimal prep work and quickness, shortcuts were made but not on the flavor.
A Vegan Meal Everyone Will Love
I am always hesitant about putting the word “vegan” in any of my recipes. I feel like for non-vegans, this turns them off right away from even trying it.
As the only two non-meat-eaters in our family, my husband and I are always trying to get others to enjoy the foods we enjoy. When given the chance to cook for anyone else in our family, I always choose my “sneaky” vegan meals that I know have flavors everyone will love.
Pasta dishes are such an easy transition. The beauty of lentils is they have a similar look and texture to minced meat. Most of the time when I serve this, people don’t even notice the difference! If you are looking for a way to limit your meat consumption, swapping pre-cooked lentils for minced meat is my #1 recommendation!
Simple Vegan Lentil Bolognese
Alright, let’s get into it! To start, we are going to need just a few ingredients that you most likely already have in your pantry:
- Gluten-free Spaghetti
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Jarred marinara sauce
- Pre-Cooked Lentils
While most of you probably don’t stock up on pre-cooked lentils as I do, you can easily make a big batch and keep them in the fridge to use throughout the week! I personally grab a few boxes every time I go to Trader Joe’s and keep them in the freezer.
Start by boiling a large pot of salted water and cook the spaghetti according to the package instructions.
Melt the butter and oil in a large skillet with high edges. This will be important later when we add in the sauce. Next, add in the diced onions and saute for about 5 minutes or until soft. Add in the garlic and stir until fragrant, then pour in 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and saute the onions and garlic for another 5 minutes. If you have some extra time on your hands let the mixture slowly reduce and caramelize, if you only have 3o minutes, move along!
Now you are going to add in your pre-cooked lentils, 1/2 a jar of marinara sauce, 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and cook until heated through. The longer you cook, the longer the flavors can come together!
To serve, you can either top the cooked spaghetti with the sauce or combine it all in the pot and then dish it up. I like to top mine with a little bit of basil, vegan parm, red pepper flakes, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze! I also have a recipe for School Lunch Italian Dunkers that go PERFECTLY with this! Once I get that recipe up, I will link it here.
That’s it! It truly is that simple, I always feel like I am forgetting something. This meal is so hearty and filling, we always seem to have eyes that are bigger than our stomachs and have plenty of leftovers. I dare say that the leftovers are sometimes better! 🙂
I hope you and your family love this Simple Vegan Lentil Bolognese and it becomes your go-to weeknight meal.
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Simple Vegan Lentil Bolognese
- Large skillet pan with high edges
- 8 oz dry spaghetti gluten-free if desired
- 1 medium sweet onion diced
- 1 tbsp vegan butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar divided
- 1.5 cup pre-cooked lentils I use Trader Joe's brand
- 1/2 24 oz jar of your favorite marinara sauce
- Melt butter & oil in a large skillet with high edges over medium heat. Add diced onion with a pinch of salt and saute for 5 minutes.
- Add minced garlic and cook until fragrant. Then add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and saute for 5 more minutes.
- Add pre-cooked lentils, half a jar of marinara sauce, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until heated through and your pasta is done. The longer you cook, the more the flavors will have time to come together.
- Meanwhile, bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil and cook 8oz of spaghetti according to the package instructions. Drain when done and set aside.
- To serve, place the spaghetti in bowls and top with as much sauce as desired! You could also combine the pasta with the sauce and mix together in the pan.
- Top with basil, vegan parm, balsamic glaze, and/or red pepper flakes and enjoy!
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