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!

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Spaghetti Bolognese

rate this recipe:
4.84 from 43 votes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
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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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. Stephanie Bric

    I’m allergic to mushrooms (so sad!). Any other substitutes or just prepare with same omitted

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Stephanie, I would increase the walnuts by 1/2 cup if you’re skipping the mushrooms. You could also add some chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes to the sauce when you add the lentils to make up for the missing umami. Alternatively, you might like this pasta recipe, which is mushroom-free!

  2. Christina

    5 stars
    This is just flat out fantastic! I recommend overcooking the lentil a bit. It allows for them to partly dissolve as part of the sauce.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi Christina, great tip! So glad you love the recipe.

  3. Rob K

    5 stars
    This dish checked all the boxes! It was delicious, healthy, and easy to make. The flavors and textures were really nice.

    I followed the recipe precisely (except for using a whole onion and doubling the tomatoes). Topping it off with shreds of basil, grated parmesan, toasted pine nuts, and chili flakes added a nice touch.

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      I’m so glad you loved the recipe!

  4. Marija

    5 stars
    Can we get a nutritional profile?

  5. Kathryn

    Would be helpful to include the nutrition profile. Maybe it’s here but I missed it?

  6. Gary Beyer

    5 stars
    Since all the ingredients are dry. I added vegetable broth to make it more sauce like.

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.