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!


5.0 from 7 reviews

Spaghetti Bolognese

 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
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.
Author:
Recipe type: Main dish
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 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, finely crushed*
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14-ounce) can of lentils, drained
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage, more to taste
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes, optional
  • 8 ounces spaghetti
  • 1 cup sliced fresh basil, optional
  • pecorino cheese, optional
  • ½ cup toasted pine nuts*
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • red pepper flakes for serving, optional
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the diced 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.
  2. 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 soy sauce and stir to incorporate. Add the diced tomatoes, lentils, tomato paste, sage and fresh cherry tomatoes, if using, and stir.
  3. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. If the sauce is very thick, add water, ⅓ cup at a time, to thin. Season to taste.
  4. 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. Stir in the fresh basil and a shaving of pecorino cheese, if using. Serve with more basil, cheese, the toasted pine nuts and a few pinches of red pepper flakes if desired.
Notes
*If you are avoiding nuts, you can skip the walnuts and pine nuts and the recipe will still be delicious.

Vegan option: skip the cheese.

This post is sponsored by Kitchen Aid. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that keep us cooking!

29 comments

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Rate this recipe (after making it):  

  1. Rachael from theteacozykitchen.blogspot.co.uk
    12.14.2016

    This sounds delicious, I love lentils 🙂

    Rachael xx.
    theteacozykitchen.blogspot.co.uk

  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
    12.16.2016

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

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      12.18.2016

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

  4. Edgar from garagegymplanner.com
    12.27.2016

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

  5. Sukey
    12.28.2016

    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 newkitchenlife.com
    01.25.2017

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

  7. Kiele
    01.30.2017

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

  8. Nikky
    02.16.2017

    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 wholehousecc.com
    03.07.2017

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

  10. Kate
    03.08.2017

    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.

    Kate

  11. Maria
    04.01.2017

    Hi,does this freeze well?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      04.02.2017

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

  12. Sarah from theseordinarygraces.com
    12.13.2017

    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
    12.13.2017

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

  14. Laura
    01.03.2018

    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
    01.07.2018

    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
      01.07.2018

      I’d try 1/2 to 1 teaspoon!

  16. Leeann Neals
    08.20.2018

    Will this hold up w zoodles instead of pasta?

  17. Bec
    09.14.2018

    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
    02.13.2019

    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
      02.19.2019

      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: https://www.loveandlemons.com/roasted-cauliflower-tahini-lentil-salad/ Hope that helps!

  19. Gil
    08.21.2019

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

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      08.23.2019

      Ooh, yummy combo :). 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.