Four Seasons Vegetarian Bolognese
Spaghetti bolognese has always been one of my kids’ favourite meals. The kind of meal I knew they would eat – every time. And finally, after trying many different variations, I feel like I have a vegetarian version that they love as much as the traditional kind with meat. And let me add, if vegetarian is not for you, you can easily make this with meat as well. Or opt for half and half if you’re transitioning or trying to find recipes that include lentils. Either way, a bolognese is a great way to get a good variety of vegetables into children. And best of all, it is versatile!… Make it once and serve it in different ways; with spaghetti (I usually go for a brown rice spaghetti, as pictured), rice, in tortillas, on top of potatoes (think loaded potatoes)… the possibilities are endless. And versatility means time saver, because you make it once and have dinner for several nights to follow. Definitely my idea of a win win!
This vegetarian bolognese features lentils in place of meat. While lentils don’t taste like much on their own, they adapt the flavour of what they are cooked with (hence why some vegetarian meals taste awfully boring). So having a super flavourful sauce happening is super important. And the combination of traditional bolognese ingredients, like onion, garlic, celery, mushrooms and herbs, gives you exactly that. A sauce (and therefore lentils), full of that traditional hearty flavour, which means you’re not feeling like you’re missing the meat. So, here it is. And while this is not really much of a summer recipe, it is a four seasons staple in our house.
- 2 tsp oil/butter/ghee
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 aubergine, cut into medium chunks
- 150 gm mushrooms, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- ½ cup red wine
- 2 x cans chopped tomatoes
- ½ cup dry black puy lentils, rinsed and drained (or even better soaked in water overnight)
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 bay leaves (dried)
- 2 tbsp fresh basil (or 2 tsp dry), chopped
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- Pinch black pepper
- Fresh parmesan to top (optional)
- Melt oil or butter in a large pot and add chopped onion. Sauté for a few minutes until onions are soft. Then add mushrooms and leave for 2-3 minutes without stirring. Give it a quick stir and add celery, pepper, aubergine and oregano. Sauté the vegetables for another couple of minutes, before adding the red wine. Then leave to simmer for another few minutes.
- Add cans of tomato, vegetable stock, lentils and all the rest of the herbs and spices and bring to a boil.
- Reduce to low/medium heat and leave to simmer for 30 minutes until the lentils are cooked. Season to taste, remove the bay leaves and serve over spaghetti with a generous grate of fresh parmesan and a pinch of fresh basil.