July 7, 2014
I’m on a serious Italian food kick. Ever since returning from Italy, we’ve been feasting on easy summer pestos, meatballs, fresh mozzarella and tomato salads, prosciutto sandwiches, and even fruit and mascarpone dessert pizza!
Having just been in Bologna, one of my biggest cravings has been meat sauce. Having just returned from an eating vacation, I’ve also been wanting to lighten up. So, unlike my restaurant-style approach with Chicken Marsala, I riffed on classic bolognese to make a healthier version.
This Mushroom and Lentil “Bolognese” sauce is not meant to taste like a stand in for real meat-sauce, but it is just as hearty and full of umami flavor as the real thing. Totally delicious and satisfying.
This vegan (vegan!) pasta sauce definitely got the green light for regular dinner rotation from my meat-eating family. You know, the one that just visited Bologna and ate meat sauce for days. Now that’s an endorsement!
Mushroom and Lentil “Bolognese” Sauce
(Can be shared with kids 6+ mos)*
Makes enough sauce for 2 lbs of pasta
2 teaspoons neutral oil such as grapeseed (you can substitute olive oil)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 8-ounce package baby bella mushrooms (you can substitute white button mushrooms)
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
2-3 cups water
2 bay leaves
5 fresh basil leaves, torn
Salt and fresh pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, to finish
1. Heat oil in a large dutch oven set over medium heat. Once hot, add garlic, carrot, celery and onion. Saute until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, stir and cook for 5 more minutes.
2. Add wine and cook until it’s cooked off by about three quarters. Add tomato paste and cook for a full minute, stirring all the while, to “toast” it.
3. Add lentils, chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, 2 cups of water and bay leaves to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the lentils are cooked through and the sauce thickens to desired consistency. If it thickens too quickly, leaving you with not enough sauce, add up to one more cup of water, 1/2 cup at a time.
4. Take off heat and stir in basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Finish with a healthy glug of olive oil. Spoon over pasta to serve; top with Parmesan cheese, unless you want to keep this vegan.
*Note: This is a wonderful sauce to share with little ones 6+ months. In fact, you don’t even have to add it to pasta! Just puree or mash it to an age appropriate consistency—with or without pasta, polenta, orzo, or cereal—and serve.