Easy vegan lentil-walnut bolognese with a perfect minced meat-alike texture and all the flavors you love in the traditional recipe.
You guys love my plant-based recipes and you know I’m always hungry for more recipes of the kind. It’s for me a matter of personal taste (I have always loved vegetables more than anything), but it is also the reflection of my eating habits in general. I call myself a flexitarian as I do not want to restrain myself to any particular diet, but I’m clearly more on the vegetarian and vegan side than any other kind.
Cooking vegan is natural to me, but also fun and it’s an amazing way to experiment. It was years ago when people still thought that having a plant-based diet wouldn’t provide us with enough nutriments, protein, etc., and we now know as a fact that a well-balanced plant-based diet is full of benefits for us.
The key is homemade cooking, always (or at least as often as possible) as it gives you full control over the ingredients you use. And if you feel a little bit overwhelmed or don’t have the time to cook, try it once in a while in a relaxing atmosphere, surrounded by people you love. Pasta more than anything is all about generosity, so involve your friends, family, and enjoy a glass of wine while cooking if you fancy it. I believe there is a sleepy cook in each of us, it’s all about waking him up.
For this recipe, I found inspiration in a vegetarian restaurant I tried in New York a few months ago where I tried a vegan lentil-walnut bolognese. I got completely obsessed with the favors, the texture, very similar to a bolognese (minus the meat) and I promised myself that I would work on my own version so I could share it with you. I’m so excited that it finally happened!
I took most of the ingredients you can find in a classic bolognese and prepared a vegan minced meat-alike texture using black lentils, crushed walnuts and chopped mushrooms. Note that I used black beluga lentils, that are slightly firmer than puys lentils, but feel free to choose one or the other depending on what you have at hands. As for the nuts, it’s important to pulse them in a food processor so you can get the right minced texture. Pulse gently and for a few seconds only as walnuts are very soft and will crush easily (you don’t want to end up with walnut butter).
To this vegan minced meat-alike texture, we add the vegetable seasoning we would use for a classic bolognese, consisting on onions, carrots, celery, crushed tomato and red wine. Season and let simmer, stirring from time to time, until lentils are cooked through. The flavors, while cooking, brought me back to my mom and grandmother’s kitchens who used to cook with wine much more often than I do. I loved it!
What I love about this vegan bolognese is that it is very forgiving. Except the core ingredients that create the meat-alike texture, walnuts-lentils-mushrooms, you could easily skip some of the vegetables (carrots or celery) for a quicker version. Also, feel free to add more or less tomato sauce, more or less stock. Free yourself from the recipe, taste and adjust according to your personal tastes.
I served my vegan bolognese with pappardelles (that are not vegan here) but you could use any pasta of your choice. Top with fresh ricotta cheese or almond ricotta cheese for a vegan version; add a few basil leaves, freshly black pepper, and enjoy. Note that you can freeze the bolognese in portions so that you always have some for last minute dinners.
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 sticks celery, chopped
- 2 small carrots, chopped
- ½ cup (40g) mushrooms, chopped
- ½ cup (65g) walnuts, crushed
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- ½ cup (120 ml) red wine
- ½ cup (100g) uncooked beluga lentils* or puys
- 1½ cup (ml) vegetable stock
- 6 cups (800g) canned crushed tomato
- Sea salt and fresh black pepper
- Pasta of your choice
- Ricotta cheese (or almond ricotta for vegan version)
- Freshly ground pepper
- Olive oil
- Fresh basil
- Heat olive oil in a heavy pot. Once hot, add onion, garlic, and sauté for a few minutes or until soft and translucent, stirring regularly.
- Meanwhile, pulse walnuts in a food processor until crushed.
- Add other vegetables (chopped carrots, celery, mushrooms) to the pan, crushed walnuts, dried herbs and let soften for a few minutes.
- Pour the red wine and cook until the alcohol evaporates. Add lentils, half of the vegetable stock, crushed tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked, stirring from time to time as not to burn the base of the sauce. Add the remaining stock or water, little by little, to loosen the sauce whenever it is looking dry. Taste and adjust spices to your preference.
- Cook pasta of choice and serve with the bolognese, (vegan) ricotta cheese, fresh black pepper and a drizzle of oil.