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Walnut and Lentil Bolognese

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time:  30 min
  • Cook Time:  55 min
  • Calories: 320
Walnut Vegan Bolognese with lentils with pasta on a plater with a serving spoon

Boldly flavored, super hearty and incredibly easy, this vegan walnut and lentil bolognese recipe takes your plant-based eating goals to new heights.

This post is in partnership with California Walnuts. All opinions are our own.

A Hearty, Easy Vegan Bolognese

Have you noticed how often our superfast recipes call for a jar of marinara? A store-bought jar of marinara is such a beautiful thing—it’s a shortcut that doesn’t short. Tomatoes are an ideal food for preserving and jarred marinara sauce is no exception—loaded with wonderful, slow cooked tomatoes and herbs, it’s a time-saver that really delivers. And in this case, it pairs up with lentils and walnuts to make a flavorful, rich vegan bolognese sauce that packs a huge nutritional punch, too! Healthy, hearty, vegan, rich, quick, easy, yummy—this walnut and lentil bolognese is an update on childhood favorite and a weeknight superstar.

dried past, bowl of walnuts, bowl of lentils, garlic, shredded carrots, olive oil celery, onion and marinara

Let’s Talk About Walnuts & Nutrition

It’s usually this time of year that you’ll find us in our boots tromping across farms as it’s peak harvest season across America. This year, as with many things in 2020, things were a little different. We recently had the opportunity of exploring California walnut orchards in partnership with California Walnuts by way of a virtual tour. As much as we wished we could be there in real life, the valuable information learned was not lost on us. We got to hear about the sustainability practices that walnut growers use, some of the health benefits of walnuts and the importance of proper storage. Beyond learning more about walnut cultivation, we also had the opportunity to discuss how we can incorporate walnuts into those family recipes we all hold dear, like this bolognese.

So, where exactly do walnuts come into our bolognese recipe and why? Well, the answer is two-fold. Firstly, walnuts have a richness that gives the bolognese sauce that hearty, meaty quality that we crave when we think of bolognese. Secondly, they contain nutrients—in addition to protein (4g/oz), fiber (2g.oz) and magnesium , walnuts are loaded with ALA, the plant based omega-3 (2.5g/oz) which is a “good fat” that supports heart health in myriad ways. Omega-3 ALA can’t be made by the body and has to come from food, like walnuts. ALA has been associated with benefits for heart health, brain health and inflammation. Plus, any walnuts that you have left over from making this sauce are great for snacking, or for adding to your favorite cookie recipe. Or even your favorite giant cookie recipe.

vegan walnut and lentil bolognese in a dutch oven with a wooden spoon

How to Buy and Store Walnuts

We mentioned storage above, but we wanted to talk briefly about it here because it is really important! Most nuts are pretty high in fat, so they don’t have an endless shelf life. To get the most out of your walnuts, be sure to:

  • Buy them in sealed packaging. This will ensure that they’re as fresh as possible when you first get them.
  • Store them in the fridge or freezer. Once you’ve opened the package—or if you’ve bought walnuts from the bulk section—store the walnuts in the fridge. Or, if you want to store them for more than a month or so, store them in the freezer.

Everything You’ll Need to Make This Vegan Bolognese

Jarred marinara, brown lentils, and walnuts are the main things that create the big, satisfying flavors and textures of this vegan bolognese recipe. A quick pass through the bulk section of the market, a pit stop in produce, and you’ll have everything you need to make it. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Olive oil
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Walnuts
  • Lentils
  • Marinara sauce
  • Pasta
vegan walnut and lentil bolognese in a dutch oven with a wooden spoon
vegan walnut and lentil bolognese in a dutch oven with a wooden spoon

How To Make Vegan Bolognese

Whether you’re a devoted vegan, or simply taking a break from meat for the evening, this healthy, hearty bolognese recipe is sure to hit the spot. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Sauté carrots, celery and onions.
  2. Add the walnuts, lentils, jar of marinara sauce and a little salt and water.
  3. Simmer! Cook low and slow—much like you would with traditional bolognese—until the lentils are cooked through.
  4. Blend! If you want to, blend some of the bolognese sauce to create a creamier texture.
  5. Serve! Tossed with the pasta of your choice. If you don’t need it to be completely vegan, top it with a little parmesan cheese.
Walnut Vegan Bolognese with lentils with pasta on a plater with a serving spoon

Tools You’ll Need

More Easy Vegan Recipes To Try

Walnut Vegan Bolognese with lentils with pasta on a plater with a serving spoon
Walnut Vegan Bolognese with lentils with pasta on a plater with a serving spoon

Healthy Bolognese? Who Knew?!

If you make this walnut and lentil bolognese recipe, let us know how you like it! Share a photo and tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so that we can see your stuff! Happy eating!

Walnut and Lentil Bolognese

  • Serves: 8
  • Prep Time:  30 min
  • Cook Time:  55 min
  • Calories: 320

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 cup minced celery
  • 1 cup finely minced yellow onion
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup raw walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup dried brown or green lentils, rinsed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or broth
  • 1 (24-ounce) jar marinara sauce
  • 1 cup red wine, such as Pinot Noir
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 pound cooked pappardelle or tagliatelle, for serving
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese or vegan Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or braiser over medium heat. Once the oil is glistening, add the carrots, celery, and onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.

  2. Add the walnuts and lentils, stir to combine. Add the stock, marinara, wine, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, pepper, and salt. Stir to combine again, then increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and the lentils are cooked to your liking, about 35 minutes.

  3. Transfer 2 cups of the sauce to a blender or food processor and blend until mostly smooth. Return the blended sauce back to the pan and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt as needed.

  4. Serve the bolognese over your favorite pasta, topped with Parmesan if desired.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories320
  • Protein10 g
  • Carbohydrates23 g
  • Total Fat19 g
  • Dietary Fiber7 g
  • Cholesterol0 mg
  • sodium344 mg
  • Total Sugars7 g

Walnut and Lentil Bolognese

Questions & Reviews

Join the discussion below.

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  • Sheryl Goodling

    Can you make this a day ahead?

    Sure!

  • Jen

    So delicious, kids loved it!

    Thanks Jen! glad you hear it!

  • Crystal bilbrey

    I am allergic to all nuts, what would you recommend as a substitute or can I just leave them out?

    This recipe will need the nuts. We also have a mushroom ragu recipe on our site if you are looking for something vegetarian you could try that one instead.

  • Jill Paschal

    Can you substitute red lentils for the green/brown?

    Hi Jill, we don't recommend that because Green and brown lentils remain more firm when cooked while red lentils become soft and mushy when cooked making them more ideal for sauces and soups. Hope you enjoy!

  • Syd

    I don't consume alcohol, cooked or uncooked. Do you have any suggestions on substitutions?

    You can replace it with broth. Hope you enjoy Sad!

  • Rita

    Bloody good, so much flavour and so easy. You guys rock.

    Thanks so much Rita!

  • Dylan

    Best vegan bolognese recipe I have ever made. I will definitely be making this one again.

    Thanks Dylan, so happy you loved it!

  • Solivan

    Excellent- this will be a menu item for the next dinner party. Full of flavor and easy to make.

    Thanks Solivan, so glad you loved it!

  • Marina Fishman

    I needed an idea for a vegetarian dinner. I didn't follow the recipe completely. I replaced carrots with green bell peppers and mushrooms, I also didn't use bullion and that much liquid. It turned out very well. I'm fairly sure I'll make it again, maybe next with the original ingredients. Thank you for the recipe.

    Glad you enjoyed it and that your substitutions worked out well!

  • Rosemary Omoregie

    I needed an emergency dinner idea and just happened to come across this recipe. Oh my goodness, I was so surprised at how flavorful it was! I was expecting to have to dress it up because of the veggie stock, but I didn't have to change anything. It came out amazing! Definitely one to keep in my back pocket!

    Thanks Rosemary, we are so glad you enjoyed it!