Black Lentil & Vegetable Bolognese


Pavarotti’s “Nessun Dorma” (none shall sleep) is blasting on repeat in my headphones. But it’s the opposite case over here. All the children are finally asleep and while Luise is taking care of the dishes, I’m trying to channel my inner Italian so we can publish this recipe before another year has passed. We wrote our last blog post in Copenhagen and this one is brought to you from a house we are borrowing, on the slope of the Table Mountains in Cape Town, South Africa. If we keep this trend of travelling south for every new blog post, we will be writing the next one from Antarctica.

It feels a little weird writing about these comforting and wintery pasta bowls from here, but I’m trusting that Pavarotti will help me with that. It’s summer in South Africa, we’ve got lemon trees growing in the garden, there is a small pool, a cute kitchen and Elsa and Isac are keeping occupied by throwing grapes at each other in some kind of never-ending grape war. In short, we are very happy and grateful to spend a month here. Apart from the children’s fights, the scene is vastly different from two weeks ago when we shot this recipe. Isac had pneumonia, Elsa and Gabriel were snoring with colds and we were all cozied up (or more like stuck) in our Stockholm apartment – pale, tired and gloomy, surrounded by cold winter. The only thing we craved then were simple and comforting pasta dishes like this. Vegetarian bolognese is perhaps not one of our most unique recipe ideas but it is January food at its best, so we thought it might be something you’d also be interested in making.


We often make a kids pasta sauce that contains tomatoes, grated carrot, grated zucchini and red lentils. As it simmers, the lentils dissolve into the tomato sauce and it all becomes quite sweet and smoothly textured. It’s a simple way to sneak extra nutrients in a meal that our kids always are happy to eat.

This is a slightly more adult approach on that dish. The sauce has more texture and chunks and a deeper flavour from herbs and red wine. We use black lentils as they stay intact in the sauce. The lentils work as replacement for the meat in the classic bolognese ragu – they both add protein and have a nice and soft, chewy consistency. We combine chopped and grated carrots to get a mix of textures.

You can of course add more veggies if you prefer. We kept it simple and used what we had at home because of sick kids and cold weather, but also because it is what Italians do. “Pochi ingredienti, tanto tempo” (few ingredients, long cooking time) is an Italian expression … that I just invented, but I’m pretty sure Pavarotti would agree. Simple cooking with great ingredients is key in the Italian kitchen. However, if you have some mushrooms or an eggplant/aubergine at home, either of them would work excellent in this recipe as well as they add meaty texture to the dish and make it even more vegetable packed. Enjoy!

That’s it, blog post number two of the year. And no babies were neglected this time. I even managed to mention Pavarotti three times, talk about grape wars and make up my own Italian food expression. If that doesn’t qualify me as a full-blooded Italian, I don’t know what does. You can call me Davide from now on. 


Vegetarian Bolognese
Serves 4-6

2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 large carrots, peeled
2 sticks celery, rinsed

4 tbsp green olives, stones removed and slightly bruised
1 tbsp fresh basil (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tbsp fresh oregano, rosemary or marjoram (or 1 tsp dried)
125 ml / ½ cup red wine
100 g / ½ cup uncooked beluga lentils (or puy), rinsed
400 ml / 1 ½ cup vegetable stock (or water)
2 bay leaves
2 x 400 g / 14 oz tins crushed tomatoes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve
pasta of choice (we used a lentil flour spaghetti)
vegetarian parmesan style cheese
fresh parsley
olive oil

Heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Meanwhile, chop one of the carrots and the celery into 1 cm / 1/2 inch chunks and add them to the pan along with olives and dried herbs (if using). Let soften for a couple of minutes, add the red wine and let cook until the alcohol evaporates. Add lentils, half of the vegetable stock, bay leaves, tinned tomatoes, fresh herbs (if using), salt and pepper. Grate the remaining carrot and add it as well. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and let simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are cooked, stirring from time to time as not to burn the base of the sauce. Add the remaining stock or water, little by little, to loosen the sauce whenever it is looking dry. Taste and adjust spices to your preference.

Cook your pasta of choice. Serve the sauce stirred through the pasta, topped with a sprinkling of grated cheese, fresh parsley or other herbs and a drizzle of oil.


PS. We actually prepared one more blog post before we left and we will try to share it soon,  along with some photos and tips from Cape Town. Meanwhile you can see some snapshots from out trip on instagram.


  • Maybe it's not your most unique recipe ever, but it looks really tasty! I'm also a little jalous about the sunny place you are in right now, I'm so looking forward to this spring! Warm winter greetz from the Netherlands!x
  • this vegan bolognese version looks simply amazing, can't wait to try it! unfortuntely i have to stick to my gluten free diet but this is great, because if i just substitute the pasta with a gluten-free version, i can enjoy it without having to rework the recipe. thanks so much for sharing it! if you ever need more inspiration, i'd love you to stop by for some vegan awesomeness! see you there :) cheers, stäf |
  • Hi - what is the 'vegetarian parmesan style cheese' love the lentil sauce
  • Marjorie
    So darn delicious! I absolutely love this! So easy to make and it tastes like heaven. Definitely going on my "ultimate comfort food" list. Thank you so much!PS: I loved it so much that I've actually made it twice this week.
  • Cindy W
    Hi I am 14 and I like photography :) I am wondering what was the IOS and Apeture and Mode you used in this photo? They look so good! Thanks, (I have a canon E60d)
  • Firstly, this sounds AMAZING! Secondly, I have a funny story about lentil bolognese. My husband, who was born and raised in Italy refused to eat dinner one time because I had called it 'lentil bolognese!' It was mainly the 'principal of the fact' that you just can't rename an Italian classic and make it vegan. Had I called it, 'lentils' he would have (or so he says) eaten it!!!
  • Hello. I love these photos. They are so impressive and full of evidence. Great. I get such an appetite when I look at the recipe and pictures. Just great!
  • Lauren
    This dish was delicious! My toddler will not eat pasta (?!!?!), yet ate every bit of the sauce.... he he managed to lick the sauce off every spaghetti strand. Next time I will make a double batch, as I think the sauce will freeze beautifully for a fast week night dinner.
  • Lewin
    Delicious, rich and wonderful! We loved this recipe. But, I did use green olives out of a jar. Was that the right kind of olives for the recipe?
  • Rebecca
    We don't drink red wine, what could you use to substitute? p.s. looks so yummy!
  • Hello from the wet Australian tropics. This recipe looks perfect for a wet evening in tropical Queensland after a meaty Australia Day weekend. Thrilled I have puy lentils and other ingredients on hand. Thankyou for sharing and enjoy your travels safely. Warm wishes, Pauline
  • Josie
    I made this tonight & it's absolutely fantastic. Really rich, deep flavours. Thanks for sharing the recipe & keep up the good work!
  • Daria
    Such a wonderful idea to add black lentils in the sauce! Yammy! For the chewy side, I have added some fresh beetroot chopped in cubes and added at the same time as carrots as didn t have celery stiks. Thank you for the idea and have a wonderful time in Cape Town!
  • Hi, I found the recipe this morning and it looks so good that I will try it right now!!! Love the pictures of your blog btw. Have a great weekend! Valérie
  • Sam
    Haha, your blog posts always make me laugh! :) The recipe looks amazing as well <3
  • Maggie
    Hi David, thank you for sharing this recipe, it's as always delicious and I'd like to try it out tonight. I was just wandering, do you mean with "1 tbsp fresh oregano, rosemary or marjoram" 1 tbsp for all or for each of the spices? Thanks and enjoy the sun, here in Northern Germany it's quite cold and grey.
    • No, just one of them. Whichever you prefer. We want to encourage everyone and to use what they have got at home. /D
  • Whauw! This looks so very good. Your pictures are always the most stunning ever. The little feet! :-) Thanks also for the extra kids version tips. We need them over here. Everything that looks remotely like a vegetable is banned from our 2 year old daughter's plate. (She throws it on our plates and goes like: "all done!"). And thanks for this little hint of summer. While reading the post, it almost felt like it (that combined with a little jealousy). :-) Enjoy your trip!
  • Thanks for this recipe! I've been a vegetarian now since the 1st January 2017 and spaghetti bolognese used to be one of my all time favorites! I'm going to be giving this a go this weekend. Thanks for the awesome suggestion!
  • Gustavo Woltmann
    Must be a huge difference between Stockholm and South Africa. Thanks for the new recipe anyway!

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