Spaghetti Bolognese

You'll love this fresh take on spaghetti bolognese. It's filled with a hearty mixture of mushrooms, lentils, walnuts, and aromatic veggies.

Vegetarian spaghetti bolognese

Have you seen those lists of the new 2017 trends? You know, the ones that go around the internet this time of year predicting everything from the popularity of coconut oil to the color of pale pink we’ll all be wearing in the spring? One that’s caught my attention lately is that “they” are saying that staying in is the new going out. And I’m totally on board with that. If you’ve had a busy holiday season how good does this sound: Stretchy pants, spaghetti bolognese, wine, and a nice dinner by the fire with twinkly Christmas tree lights in the background?

Ok, just kidding. We don’t have a fireplace, and we haven’t even put up the Christmas tree, because if you remember last year it was FEBRUARY before we got around to taking the thing down. But festivity aside, let’s make pasta, shall we?

Spaghetti bolognese recipe

What is spaghetti bolognese?

I’m calling this a spaghetti bolognese, although I realize that Italian grandmothers are shaking their heads right about now. In traditional spaghetti bolognese, pasta is topped with a tomato sauce made of aromatic vegetables, red wine, and a mix of beef and pork. While this bolognese sauce is not exactly authentic, it’s equally delicious, made with a hearty mix of mushrooms and lentils that get all stewy with onions, carrots, tomatoes, and rosemary, among other savory ingredients.

Spaghetti bolognese recipe ingredients

My Twist on Spaghetti Bolognese

Hidden in this spaghetti bolognese recipe are some unconventional ingredients. I find that balsamic vinegar and soy sauce bring out a rich flavor in the mushrooms. Sage (to me) has a sausage-like scent, so I used a bit of dried sage to bring a depth of flavor to the sauce. In addition to the lentils, I added some finely crushed walnuts that you won’t detect, but they add some richness to this no-meat situation.

I used canned tomatoes as the base of the sauce and tossed in some sliced fresh tomatoes near the end for no other reason except that I find brown foods exceptionally challenging to photograph 🙂

How to make spaghetti bolognese Spaghetti bolognese recipe

Aside from that whole not having a Christmas tree thing – Christmas came early because I got the chance to cook with KitchenAid’s new Stainless Steel Cookware set. The polished stainless steel is so fancy! The 12-inch skillet cooked my stewy sauce perfectly, and these pieces were a breeze to clean. Plus, how pretty is this large pot (and Jack’s action-pasta drop shot!):

How to make spaghetti bolognese

What to Serve with Spaghetti Bolognese

Cook your pasta until al dente, toss it with the sauce, and serve! We like ours with steamed green veggies or another simple vegetable side. Roasted cauliflower, asparagus, green beans, and zucchini are some of our favorites.

It would also be good with a green salad and crusty bread. Make up your own, or try this arugula salad, this spring salad, this Brussels sprout salad, or this kale salad.

Spaghetti Bolognese in bowls

If you love this spaghetti bolognese…

Try my lasagna, pasta pomodoro, roasted vegetable pasta, or penne pasta next!

Spaghetti Bolognese

rate this recipe:
5 from 15 votes
Prep Time: 20 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Total Time: 50 mins
Serves 4
This vegetarian spaghetti bolognese is a delicious, lighter take on the Italian classic. Along with the traditional aromatic vegetables, I use walnuts, lentils, and mushrooms to make the hearty sauce.


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion, diced, about 1 cup
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 4 cups chopped cremini mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
  • ½ cup walnuts, crushed
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 1 14-ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked brown or green lentils*
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 1 cup sliced fresh basil, optional
  • ½ cup toasted pine nuts
  • red pepper flakes
  • shaved pecorino cheese, skip if vegan
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and pinches of salt and pepper and cook until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, another pinch of salt, and cook until soft, stirring only occasionally, about 8 more minutes.
  • Stir in the rosemary. Push everything to one side of the pan to make room for the walnuts. Add the crushed walnuts and toast them for about 30 seconds, then stir everything together. Stir in the garlic, then add the balsamic vinegar and tamari and stir to incorporate. Add the tomatoes, lentils, tomato paste, sage and fresh cherry tomatoes, and stir.
  • Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes until the sauce thickens. Season to taste.
  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare the pasta according to the instructions on the package, cooking until al dente. Drain and add the pasta to the pan with the sauce.
  • Serve with fresh basil, pine nuts, pinches of red pepper flakes and pecorino cheese, if desired.


*You can use canned lentils in this recipe. Drain and rinse them before using.

This post is sponsored by Kitchen Aid. 


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  1. Rachael from

    This sounds delicious, I love lentils 🙂

    Rachael xx.

  2. Even though Italian grandmothers might shake their heads, I wouldn’t mind tasting this! Staying in is something I definitely can agree on, although the Christmas markets here in Berlin are super cozy in their own way.

  3. Lauren

    This came out great! My one year old and three year old loved it too! Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Lauren, I’m so happy to hear that!!

  4. Edgar from

    5 stars
    Spaghetti 😀 What else do you want me to say?? Looks like an easy one to try…
    Thanks for the recipe Jeanine 🙂

  5. Sukey

    Made this with Christmas leftovers. Really good thanks. I think the addition of the walnuts makes it ‘meaty’ and interesting. Carnivorous son ate it with relish!

  6. Sabrina from

    nice change from my bolognese recipe, clever substitutions, love it and thank you for this recipe!

  7. Kiele

    5 stars
    I cooked this up and it was incredible! Perfectly filling and a great variation for a vegetarian. Will definitely be making again.

  8. Nikky

    5 stars
    This is such a delicious and hearty dish. Definitely a great alternative for when I find myself craving this traditionally meaty dish!

  9. Tony from

    What a great way to keep spaghetti dinners from being so mundane! I can’t wait to try it.

  10. Kate

    This was great. For it to be totally gluten free use Tamari. I used an edamame spaghetti.
    My mom thought it was very tasty. I’m trying to increase the iron in her diet.


  11. Maria

    Hi,does this freeze well?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Maria, you could freeze the sauce but I would make the pasta fresh. Hope that helps!

  12. Sarah from

    Ok. I have to be honest. I was planning my PB&J while I was making this. I made it because my husband loves mushrooms but I HATE them.

    But this was so delicious! I will make this again!

  13. Ashley Nager

    5 stars
    This recipe was SO good! I doubled it and will have left overs for a bit. Thank you.

  14. Laura

    This was amazing. I only had a small carrot so I added half a zucchini, and some chopped chilli that I had left over.

  15. Jackie

    I’m hoping to try this recipe out tonight, and have all of the ingredients on hand except for the fresh rosemary! Do you think dried would work in a pinch? 1 teaspoon?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’d try 1/2 to 1 teaspoon!

  16. Leeann Neals

    Will this hold up w zoodles instead of pasta?

  17. Bec

    5 stars
    This recipe is actually delicious!! My 2 year old, 5 year old, and carnivorous husband LOVED it. This is a favourite in our house. Thanks so much for sharing!

  18. Maura

    Hi Jeanine,
    I would prefer not to use canned lentils. Can I just add the dry lentils to the sauce or should I cook them up separately and then add them in. Also what quantity dry lentils should I use?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Maura, I’d cook the lentils separately before adding them in. 1 can of lentils equals a little over 1 1/2 cups. So I would cook them and then measure them. If you make a larger batch of lentils than what’s needed for the pasta, store the leftovers and use them in this delicious salad on another day: Hope that helps!

  19. Gil

    5 stars
    Served with your “Papardelle” zucchini recipe.
    Yum, yum and yum ! 🙂

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Ooh, yummy combo :). So glad you loved it!

  20. Hayley

    Could this be frozen?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      yep! I would freeze the sauce and cook pasta fresh as you’re ready to eat.

      • Hayley

        5 stars
        Made it tonight with everything but the fresh cherry tomatoes. It was so good and I look forward to the leftovers!

        • Jeanine Donofrio

          I’m so glad you loved it!!

  21. Katurotta

    5 stars
    Wow!! This turned out so good my boyfriend ate a bowl of just sauce 😀
    I subbed mushrooms for soya mince but I’m sure mushrooms will make it even better!
    Thank yoy

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Ha ha, I’m glad you both loved it so much!

  22. rachel samuelian

    5 stars
    You’ve done it again! How do you do it? This is DELICIOUS and I’ll be making it on the regular for my family with two little ones!

  23. Gaby

    Delicious! The mushrooms and lentils are a great combination!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  24. Meghan

    5 stars
    This is so flavorful and has an amazing texture. Truly mimics meat! I am not a fan of mushrooms out right, but love finding ways to sneak them into food for a little plant diversity. This meal is a keeper and going down in my recipe book!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved it!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.