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. Joe

    I used to love adding lentils to things like this, but my digestive system cannot handle it. Gives me awful, unmentionable issues. So is there a good alternative I can try?

  2. Dee

    wonderful final product! served with roasted zucchini spears. take note: the amount of cooked lentils required is much less than the amount of lentils to cook. Think about it. we have lentils leftover. Also, maybe its just me, but the amount of chopping and prep took me much longer than 20 min.! also, when i do it again, i would add more liquid to sauce it up. (more tamari or canned tomatoes) it was a bit thick. Used mac nuts to sprinkle at end and it was a crowd pleaser!

  3. Cathe

    4 stars
    I found this recipe and was excited because I had all the ingredients on hand. But when it came time to add the lentils I realized they were supposed to be precooked! So I used a can of cannelloni beans which worked fine but honestly I think it would have been even better without them. The taste of the mushrooms, tomatoes, herbs etc. were really good.

  4. Michelle

    5 stars
    Delicious! My family loved it too – it was very tasty.

  5. Glenn

    5 stars
    Any idea what the nutrition breakdown is? My wife loved it but she is doing zoom and is trying to enter it in the program.

  6. Pamela McClelland

    3 stars
    My family liked it but didn’t love it.
    To me the balsamic vinegar over powered the dish. I would like to try it again without the balsamic vinegar.

  7. Anne

    1 star
    I wanted to love this, but the flavor was not good. It *looked* nice and “meaty” but neither me or my family liked the flavor or the texture. Would never make again. Sorry.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this one.

  8. Jenny W

    5 stars
    Ok, this was amazing! My picky husband and daughter ate it up. The only thing I did different is added 2 tablespoons of the tomato paste, and increased the balsamic vinegar and tamari by 1 teaspoon each, and added 2/3 cup of water because it wasn’t saucy enough for me. Needless to say they asked for more!

  9. Sr

    5 stars
    Made this tonight and it turned out tasty! Only difference, I probably used about 1/2 cup of cooked lentils. I did not use tamari or any cheese. It was a very thick sauce, very hearty. Good for cold winter nights. And I have enough for leftovers tomorrow! Yum!

    • Jenny W

      5 stars
      Yes! I loved the fact that there was leftovers for us. I think I will use the leftovers as a base for a chili or soup.

  10. Barb

    5 stars
    This was delicious! Hearty, filling, and chock-full of goodness! I left out the rosemary and used gluten free spaghetti. Yum!!

  11. Alyssa

    5 stars
    We are not a vegan/vegetarian family, but are trying to expand our horizons. This recipe was AMAZING! The whole family loved it. We did omit the mushrooms. We are making it for dinner again this week.

  12. 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!

  13. Gaby

    Delicious! The mushrooms and lentils are a great combination!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you loved it!

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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!!

  17. Gil

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

    • Jeanine Donofrio

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

  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. 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!

  20. Leeann Neals

    Will this hold up w zoodles instead of pasta?

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.