Skip to Content

Walnut and Lentil Bolognese

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

Categories

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

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!

💌 Let's Stay Together

There are so many great ways to receive all of our latest recipes, meal tips, and inspiration.

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, (from about 3 medium carrots)
  • 1 cup minced celery, (from about 3 ribs)
  • 1 cup finely minced yellow onion (from 1 medium onion)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup dried brown or green lentils, rinsed
  • 1 quart 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, for serving (optional)

Method

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

  2. Stir in the walnuts, lentils, stock, marinara, wine, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, pepper, and salt, then bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and the lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.

  3. Transfer 2 cups of the sauce to the base of a blender, let cool briefly, and blend until nearly smooth. Return the sauce to the pan and stir to combine. (Alternatively, use an immersion blender to blend the sauce to your desired consistency directly in the pan; it should still have some texture to it.) Taste and season with salt as needed.

  4. Divide the cooked pasta between bowls and top with the bolognese. Top with parmesan, if using, and serve.


To make in the Instant Pot:

  1. Turn on the saute mode and pour in the olive oil. Once the oil is glistening, add the carrots, celery, and onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.

  2. Stir in the walnuts, lentils, stock, marinara, wine, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, pepper, and salt. Secure the lid, making sure the vent is closed. Set to pressure cook or manual mode for 10 minutes. Naturally release the pressure for 10 minutes before manually releasing the remaining pressure.

  3. Transfer 2 cups of the sauce to the base of a blender, let cool briefly, and blend until nearly smooth. Return the sauce to the Instant Pot and stir to combine. (Alternatively, use an immersion blender to blend the sauce to your desired consistency directly in the Instant Pot; it should still have some texture to it.) Taste and season with salt as needed.

  4. Divide the cooked pasta between bowls and top with the bolognese. Top with parmesan, if using, and serve.

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.

or
  • Carrie

    Do you need to use walnuts? We have a few tree nut allergies in our home.

    Hi Carrie, unfortunately This is probably not a great recipe to use if you need remove nuts.

  • Carly

    Can you freeze the sauce.?

    Sure!

  • Kathi

    Can I make this a day ahead just to sauced?

    Not sure what the end of the question means but yes you can make the sauce a day ahead. Reheat on the stovetop slowly, stirring often until warmed through.

  • Priscilla

    What can be substituted for the wine pls

    Broth/stock. Hope you enjoy Priscilla!

  • KM

    Can you sub dry lentils for canned?

    Not in this recipe that would change the liquid needed in teh recipe.

  • Mark

    This is just an amazing meal. Such a wonderful flavor and texture, honestly a standalone recipe and not a meat replacement recipe. Well done!

    Thanks Mark, so glad you loved it!

  • K

    This was excellent. Rave reviews from my family.

    Thanks KS, we are so glad you all loved it!

  • light

    The flavors are so rich and deep. I was a teeny bit skeptical. I've found many lentil recipes to be a little boring, in contrast with the Indian dals I'm familiar with, but a friend brought the dish over. It's going into permanent rotation. Thanks!

    Thanks Lea, we are so glad you loved it!

  • Brent

    Perfect

    Thanks Brent!

  • Denee

    Wow! I did the instant Pot version. This recipe is amazing. So much leftovers to enjoy. I followed the recipe exactly. This is a keeper. Thanks

    Thanks Denee, we are so happy you love it!