© 2017 Green Kitchen Stories gks_bolognese_1

Black Lentil & Vegetable Bolognese

Pavarotti’s “Nessun Dorma” (none shall sleep) is blasting on repeat in my headphones. But it’s the opposite case over here. All the children are finally asleep and while Luise is taking care of the dishes, I’m trying to channel my inner Italian so we can publish this recipe before another year has passed. We wrote our last blog post in Copenhagen and this one is brought to you from a house we are borrowing, on the slope of the Table Mountains in Cape Town, South Africa. If we keep this trend of travelling south for every new blog post, we will be writing the next one from Antarctica.

It feels a little weird writing about these comforting and wintery pasta bowls from here, but I’m trusting that Pavarotti will help me with that. It’s summer in South Africa, we’ve got lemon trees growing in the garden, there is a small pool, a cute kitchen and Elsa and Isac are keeping occupied by throwing grapes at each other in some kind of never-ending grape war. In short, we are very happy and grateful to spend a month here. Apart from the children’s fights, the scene is vastly different from two weeks ago when we shot this recipe. Isac had pneumonia, Elsa and Gabriel were snoring with colds and we were all cozied up (or more like stuck) in our Stockholm apartment – pale, tired and gloomy, surrounded by cold winter. The only thing we craved then were simple and comforting pasta dishes like this. Vegetarian bolognese is perhaps not one of our most unique recipe ideas but it is January food at its best, so we thought it might be something you’d also be interested in making.


We often make a kids pasta sauce that contains tomatoes, grated carrot, grated zucchini and red lentils. As it simmers, the lentils dissolve into the tomato sauce and it all becomes quite sweet and smoothly textured. It’s a simple way to sneak extra nutrients in a meal that our kids always are happy to eat.

This is a slightly more adult approach on that dish. The sauce has more texture and chunks and a deeper flavour from herbs and red wine. We use black lentils as they stay intact in the sauce. The lentils work as replacement for the meat in the classic bolognese ragu – they both add protein and have a nice and soft, chewy consistency. We combine chopped and grated carrots to get a mix of textures.

You can of course add more veggies if you prefer. We kept it simple and used what we had at home because of sick kids and cold weather, but also because it is what Italians do. “Pochi ingredienti, tanto tempo” (few ingredients, long cooking time) is an Italian expression … that I just invented, but I’m pretty sure Pavarotti would agree. Simple cooking with great ingredients is key in the Italian kitchen. However, if you have some mushrooms or an eggplant/aubergine at home, either of them would work excellent in this recipe as well as they add meaty texture to the dish and make it even more vegetable packed. Enjoy!

That’s it, blog post number two of the year. And no babies were neglected this time. I even managed to mention Pavarotti three times, talk about grape wars and make up my own Italian food expression. If that doesn’t qualify me as a full-blooded Italian, I don’t know what does. You can call me Davide from now on. 


Vegetarian Bolognese
Serves 4-6

2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 large carrots, peeled
2 sticks celery, rinsed

4 tbsp green olives, stones removed and slightly bruised
1 tbsp fresh basil (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tbsp fresh oregano, rosemary or marjoram (or 1 tsp dried)
125 ml / ½ cup red wine
100 g / ½ cup uncooked beluga lentils (or puy), rinsed
400 ml / 1 ½ cup vegetable stock (or water)
2 bay leaves
2 x 400 g / 14 oz tins crushed tomatoes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve
pasta of choice (we used a lentil flour spaghetti)
vegetarian parmesan style cheese
fresh parsley
olive oil

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Meanwhile, chop one of the carrots and the celery into 1 cm / 1/2 inch chunks and add them to the pan along with olives and dried herbs (if using). Let soften for a couple of minutes, add the red wine and let cook until the alcohol evaporates. Add lentils, half of the vegetable stock, bay leaves, tinned tomatoes, fresh herbs (if using), salt and pepper. Grate the remaining carrot and add it as well. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for 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 your pasta of choice. Serve the sauce stirred through the pasta, topped with a sprinkling of grated cheese, fresh parsley or other herbs and a drizzle of oil.


PS. We actually prepared one more blog post before we left and we will try to share it soon,  along with some photos and tips from Cape Town. Meanwhile you can see some snapshots from out trip on instagram.


  1. Posted 23 Jan ’17 at 22:43 | #

    love your blog and this recipe, it looks amazing!!

  2. Posted 23 Jan ’17 at 22:47 | #

    Lentil bolognese is the best kind of bolognese, and I love your addition of olives to this. Cape Town sounds magical- I hope you’re having a marvelous time.

  3. bree
    Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 00:23 | #

    epic looking and sounding pasta bowls!! have never tried lentils with spaghetti before but will do it asap.

  4. Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 09:39 | #

    Blipping away for hours on end, sure is the trick to the best bolognese. We’re not vegetarian in our house I I get a good quality mince (to please the carnivore in my dad) and bulk it up with lentils for lots of fibre!! I’ll make it completely with lentils next to see if he will notice!! Have an amazing time in Cape Town and make the most of the sun!! X

  5. Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 09:59 | #

    I don’t cook nearly enough with black lentils, this sounds absolutely delightful! x


  6. Dana
    Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 10:45 | #

    Looks good, I am a bit of a baby with the lentils, can I swap for red lentils? Do I add a touch more water to do in a slow cooker?

  7. Laura B_S
    Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 11:25 | #

    All I can say as an italian is: Bravo Davide, è delizioso! You guys are seriously the best.
    Love from sunny (and cold) Milano


  8. Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 11:50 | #

    What a lovely post and it sounds like your having a wonderful time, except for those colds. I love how you add some extra veggies to your sauce. I’ve never tried lentils in sauce but will have to give it a try. Extra protein power! Cheers!

  9. Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 11:56 | #

    Love the idea!
    Will try this very soon.
    And I adore the pictures :)

  10. Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 12:03 | #

    This looks amazing. I love vegetarian bolognese and this looks so rich and delicious.

  11. Silvana
    Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 12:31 | #

    I Just cooked this recipe and it tasted really good. Thank you!

  12. marzia
    Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 13:14 | #

    I am not Pavarotti, but I am Italian, and I do agree with your expression…..

  13. Marpy
    Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 14:05 | #

    I’m so looking forward to trying this recipe! My poor family is going to have to suffer through Pavoratti if they want to eat it! 😀

  14. Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 15:56 | #

    Oh my this looks insanely delicious! I’ll have to try this asap!!

  15. Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 16:18 | #

    Here I sit under a big blanket with a bowl of oatmeal and a handkerchief (cause I have a cold), the wind is blowing, the rain is pouring and I am dreaming of the huge bowl of black lentil pasta i will devour at dinner.
    It is wonderful to hear that there is sunlight where you are.
    Keep the wonderful recipes coming.
    all the best

  16. Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 17:07 | #

    You two and your travels with THREE KIDDOS in tow is seriously inspiring. Also, totally whipping up this bolognese for dinner tonight. I’ll keep you posted. Hugs to you and the fam, Davide. ;)

  17. Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 17:30 | #

    This lentil bolognese looks soo good!I could eat this every day!

  18. Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 19:22 | #

    love the sound of using black lentils – I can imagine they add such an extra richness! As always, your photography and recipes make me so inspired and hungry haha… i’m going to have to plan a bolognese dish for some time soon!

  19. Posted 24 Jan ’17 at 21:41 | #

    As always, this recipe and photographs are so so beautiful! That’s amazing that you’re in South Africa (my home country).
    Hope you enjoy your time there. Cape Town is so beautiful and there are such divine places to eat and markets to see.
    Thank you for your constant magical inspiration!


  20. Posted 25 Jan ’17 at 08:21 | #

    haha fantastic Davide! My father sat next to Pavarotti on the plane once on their way to Hong Kong (my dad is Italian) and Pavarotti had packets of pasta in his hand-carry just in case. You never know in “China”! My dad told him they had pasta in Hong Kong too and Pavarotti told him, “well, sometimes after a show I like to make my own bowl of pasta in the hotel.” haha HE was definitely attached to REAL “home/hotel-cooked” italian food no matter where he was. ;-)

    • Posted 25 Jan ’17 at 09:51 | #

      Haha, what a fantastic story – Pavarotti with pasta in his hand luggage! Epic! Hilarious! Thank you for sharing!

  21. Gustavo Woltmann
    Posted 25 Jan ’17 at 21:04 | #

    Must be a huge difference between Stockholm and South Africa. Thanks for the new recipe anyway!

  22. Posted 25 Jan ’17 at 21:21 | #

    Thanks for this recipe! I’ve been a vegetarian now since the 1st January 2017 and spaghetti bolognese used to be one of my all time favorites! I’m going to be giving this a go this weekend. Thanks for the awesome suggestion!

  23. Posted 26 Jan ’17 at 08:52 | #

    Whauw! This looks so very good. Your pictures are always the most stunning ever. The little feet! :-) Thanks also for the extra kids version tips. We need them over here. Everything that looks remotely like a vegetable is banned from our 2 year old daughter’s plate. (She throws it on our plates and goes like: “all done!”). And thanks for this little hint of summer. While reading the post, it almost felt like it (that combined with a little jealousy). :-) Enjoy your trip!

  24. Maggie
    Posted 26 Jan ’17 at 18:41 | #

    Hi David, thank you for sharing this recipe, it’s as always delicious and I’d like to try it out tonight. I was just wandering, do you mean with “1 tbsp fresh oregano, rosemary or marjoram” 1 tbsp for all or for each of the spices? Thanks and enjoy the sun, here in Northern Germany it’s quite cold and grey.

    • Posted 26 Jan ’17 at 21:22 | #

      No, just one of them. Whichever you prefer. We want to encourage everyone and to use what they have got at home.

  25. Sam
    Posted 27 Jan ’17 at 12:07 | #

    Haha, your blog posts always make me laugh! :) The recipe looks amazing as well <3

  26. Posted 28 Jan ’17 at 13:11 | #


    I found the recipe this morning and it looks so good that I will try it right now!!!
    Love the pictures of your blog btw.

    Have a great weekend!


  27. Daria
    Posted 28 Jan ’17 at 18:47 | #

    Such a wonderful idea to add black lentils in the sauce! Yammy! For the chewy side, I have added some fresh beetroot chopped in cubes and added at the same time as carrots as didn t have celery stiks. Thank you for the idea and have a wonderful time in Cape Town!

  28. Josie
    Posted 28 Jan ’17 at 20:41 | #

    I made this tonight & it’s absolutely fantastic. Really rich, deep flavours. Thanks for sharing the recipe & keep up the good work!

  29. Posted 30 Jan ’17 at 03:27 | #

    Hello from the wet Australian tropics. This recipe looks perfect for a wet evening in tropical Queensland after a meaty Australia Day weekend. Thrilled I have puy lentils and other ingredients on hand. Thankyou for sharing and enjoy your travels safely. Warm wishes, Pauline

  30. Posted 30 Jan ’17 at 16:15 | #

    So. ridiculously. gorgeous. You guys have me drooling every post!

  31. Rebecca
    Posted 31 Jan ’17 at 09:11 | #

    We don’t drink red wine, what could you use to substitute?

    p.s. looks so yummy!

  32. Lewin
    Posted 1 Feb ’17 at 14:58 | #

    Delicious, rich and wonderful! We loved this recipe. But, I did use green olives out of a jar. Was that the right kind of olives for the recipe?

  33. Lauren
    Posted 3 Feb ’17 at 21:19 | #

    This dish was delicious! My toddler will not eat pasta (?!!?!), yet ate every bit of the sauce…. he he managed to lick the sauce off every spaghetti strand. Next time I will make a double batch, as I think the sauce will freeze beautifully for a fast week night dinner.

  34. Posted 4 Feb ’17 at 20:22 | #

    Hello. I love these photos. They are so impressive and full of evidence. Great. I get such an appetite when I look at the recipe and pictures. Just great!

  35. Posted 8 Feb ’17 at 03:13 | #

    Firstly, this sounds AMAZING! Secondly, I have a funny story about lentil bolognese. My husband, who was born and raised in Italy refused to eat dinner one time because I had called it ‘lentil bolognese!’ It was mainly the ‘principal of the fact’ that you just can’t rename an Italian classic and make it vegan. Had I called it, ‘lentils’ he would have (or so he says) eaten it!!!

  36. Cindy W
    Posted 8 Feb ’17 at 23:17 | #

    Hi I am 14 and I like photography :)

    I am wondering what was the IOS and Apeture and Mode you used in this photo?

    They look so good!

    Thanks, (I have a canon E60d)

  37. Marjorie
    Posted 10 Feb ’17 at 02:42 | #

    So darn delicious! I absolutely love this! So easy to make and it tastes like heaven. Definitely going on my “ultimate comfort food” list. Thank you so much!PS: I loved it so much that I’ve actually made it twice this week.

  38. Posted 10 Feb ’17 at 08:28 | #

    Hi – what is the ‘vegetarian parmesan style cheese’
    love the lentil sauce

  39. Posted 10 Feb ’17 at 15:27 | #

    this vegan bolognese version looks simply amazing, can’t wait to try it! unfortuntely i have to stick to my gluten free diet but this is great, because if i just substitute the pasta with a gluten-free version, i can enjoy it without having to rework the recipe. thanks so much for sharing it! if you ever need more inspiration, i’d love you to stop by eatwholegreens.com for some vegan awesomeness! see you there :)
    cheers, stäf | http://www.eatwholegreens.com

  40. Posted 16 Feb ’17 at 14:22 | #

    Maybe it’s not your most unique recipe ever, but it looks really tasty! I’m also a little jalous about the sunny place you are in right now, I’m so looking forward to this spring! Warm winter greetz from the Netherlands!x

  41. Posted 18 Feb ’17 at 13:19 | #

    Loved the recipe and the presentation. And also the story behind it. The image looks so delicious i can’t wait more. I will try it now. thanks again.

  42. Posted 19 Feb ’17 at 22:20 | #

    This looks sooo good!!

    x Annabelle

  43. Posted 20 Feb ’17 at 08:31 | #

    Big thanks for sharing this recipe David. I am tired of trying those salads and soups. I thought I could try some different cuisine and this Italian combo will be a great pick I suppose. Let me crank it up and surprise my family :) Fingers crossed that it should come out very well.

  44. Genevieve
    Posted 21 Feb ’17 at 23:28 | #

    This recipe was outstanding!! Never expected to be so enraptured by a vegetarian bolognese but life’s surprises come when you least expect them ;)
    I have a horrible hob of doom that burns anything I try to simmer so I always do things like that in the slow cooker. Notes for future reference to myself… used half as much stock and 3/4 tomatoes stated in recipe. Added a bit of tomato puree after the red wine to make sure it would still be as tomato flavoured. Added the salt and fresh herbs after it was cooked. Transferred to the slow cooker once everything was in and brought to the boil then cooked 6 hours on low.
    Thanks for a great recipe!

  45. Annika
    Posted 22 Feb ’17 at 08:48 | #

    Great post! Will def try the two last ones. Thanks!

  46. Annika
    Posted 22 Feb ’17 at 08:50 | #

    Don’t know how my comment appears here (above) – supposed to be on another post!:)

  47. Posted 23 Feb ’17 at 08:45 | #

    Thanks for the great recipe. This looks really simple yet much more special to me. Thanks again and looking forward to new one.

  48. Daria
    Posted 10 Mar ’17 at 23:47 | #

    Hi, I m back here to comment. Just prepared the recipe for the second time but as lasagna. Skipped carrots/ celery/ olives/ spices…like everything but lentils/ garlic/ onion cooked with tomatos though added some goat cheese& mozarella. It s just delicious the same!!! My husband, who hates lentils, took a second piece!!! My victory. Thank you very much once again for this idea!

  49. Posted 2 Apr ’17 at 14:55 | #

    This looks delicious. You’ve reminded me I need to use a packet of puy lentils I have sitting in my cupboard. Perfect for this recipe. Thanks for sharing your wonderful recipe and stories from around the world.

  50. Bri
    Posted 16 Apr ’17 at 14:49 | #

    I saw this post, thought WOW I need to try that and a week later I’ve got my hands on black lentils (they are so beautiful, how have I not been cooking these??”). But by then, I’d lost track of the initial posting and am I blind???? I could not find this in your recepe index (FYI it would be helpful if the recipes were alphabetized). After much frustration hopping around between posts without success, I used the search with spaghetti as the key word, and found it, but dinner was almost scuppered!

  51. Posted 3 May ’17 at 10:02 | #

    Yummy! This looks SO delicious!! :-) I make lentil bolognese all the time, but I usually use red lentils (http://veganheaven.org/recipe/spaghetti-with-lentil-bolognese/ ) Can’t wait to try your recipe soon! And I absolutely LOVE your food photography!!

  52. Bri
    Posted 10 May ’17 at 02:55 | #

    Tried this tonight. Family rating 6/10, which translates to “wiling to eat once every few months”. Primary complaint was that the dish fails to exceed the sum of its parts…as occurs in a true Bolognese. To be fair, as omnivores, we couldn’t help compare with a the real thing, which is a high bar for anything, but taste wise, veg version lacks richness and depth (I had hoped the wine and olives would do this, but they didn’t really share their magic) so not up to “bolognese” expectation. Perhaps better to call it pasta sauce…

  53. Bri
    Posted 18 May ’17 at 13:46 | #

    FYI. I just found your UNATTRIBUTED recipe copied (plagiarized in fact) into another site: http://naturallycurvy.com/black-lentil-vegetable-bolognese/

    Not cool.

  54. Bri
    Posted 18 May ’17 at 18:56 | #

    Just tried out Edamam.com to analyze your black lentil veg pasta sauce: assuming 6 servings (which is about right for my family), sauce is 204 calories/serving. Highlights of the analysis: 30% daily fiber, 18% protein, 25% daily potassium, 30% Vitamin A, 36% Vitamin C (though I doubt that as vitamin C is thermolabile…), 35% Vitamin K, etc. And so while I was a little down on the recipe because it wasn’t “bolognese” tasting enough for my family, it’s nonetheless a tasty and nutritious veggie pasta sauce that I will make again (and it improves by the next day). THanks!

  55. Posted 23 May ’17 at 05:13 | #

    This is a terrific idea! The recipe is easy to follow and remember. Its really simple and tasty. I topped it with a grilled chicken breast for an added smoky flavor which really complements the sauce. I also used Whale Shaped Colander for easily prepping the vegetables and draining the pasta.

  56. Corinne
    Posted 27 May ’17 at 00:40 | #

    Made this for dinner and it taste great. I have tried your recipes for a week they are so good that I ordered your books.

  57. Posted 2 Jun ’17 at 17:03 | #

    Hi guys,

    Thanks a mil for you blog! I really love all your recipes.


    Lorene from Intovino

  58. Posted 29 Jun ’17 at 11:43 | #

    the pictures look delicious.. must try it out!!

  59. Posted 14 Jul ’17 at 22:13 | #

    Thanks for sharing David. I want to try it so badly. Saving it!!!

  60. Posted 17 Jul ’17 at 10:12 | #

    I heard a lot about the Bolognese recipe. On pictures it looks delicious. We are family of vegetarians, will definitely try your recipe. Thx for sharing!

  61. Posted 17 Aug ’17 at 14:52 | #

    Looks so delicious! Can’t Wait to try it. Thank you for sharing it..

  62. Posted 29 Sep ’17 at 20:09 | #

    Thanks for sharing this healthy vegetarian recipe David!!

  63. Frauke
    Posted 12 Feb ’18 at 13:07 | #

    Dear Green Kitcheners,
    I want to thank you for this amazing recipe! I cooked it already a couple of times by now and it really is delicious! Thank you for all the work and love you put into your recipes and this blog, I really appreciate it. :-)
    All the best,

  64. Posted 12 Jun ’18 at 08:08 | #

    David, Thank you very delicious Bolognese.

  65. Posted 10 Jul ’18 at 12:44 | #

    David, Delicious! I wonder, but a lot of calories?

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