vegetarian lentil bolognese
I’m not a vegetarian but I find that I cook more than 50% of our meals meatless. This is in part because the only animal protein Nate will tolerate is poultry. He’ll eat seafood (though not shellfish), but it tends to be pretty pricey.

Anyway, I can only eat so much chicken and turkey, especially since I’m not particularly fond of either. Plus vegetarian meals are usually lower in fat and calories.

vegetarian lentil bolognese

Who doesn’t love a good Bolognese sauce? I make pasta sauce a lot for Nate and I usually use our go-to protein- Lean Italian Turkey Sausage. The sausage is raw and I squeeze it out of the casing and chop it up in the pan with a wooden spoon as it cooks. It adds tons of flavor and has much less calories than beef.

However after calculating the nutrition in the Smoked Cheddar Pot Pies that I made a couple weeks ago, I realized that turkey sausage, while healthier than ground beef, is still incredibly high in fat! I don’t usually care about these things but I figured it just can’t be healthy to eat as often as we were eating it.

vegetarian lentil bolognese 3

So I set out to make my usual pasta sauce completely vegetarian, without sacrificing the taste or texture. I thought about what I could add for heft, and I remembered that I had a pack of Trader Joe’s precooked lentils in the fridge. I also decided to throw in some mushrooms to add a nice chew. I think next time I might even use some reconstituted dried mushrooms for more chewiness and depth of flavor.

I think this sauce easily rivals a traditional Bolognese and it’s much lower in saturated fat and calories. The wine makes it feel indulgent. Enjoy it over a steaming bowl of pasta and a sprinkling of parmesan for a delicious, satisfying, well-rounded dinner!

This makes about 7 heaping cup servings at around 210 calories, 2g fat, and 10 grams of both protein and fiber per serving! I calculated the nutrition here.

vegetarian lentil bolognese

Lentil “Bolognese” Sauce

Makes about 7 cups

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1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot (or two small), diced
1 rib celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
One 8-oz container mushrooms, chopped coarsely
1 lb cooked lentils (Trader Joes sells them in a vacuum sealed pack in the refrigerated section)
Two 28-oz cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine
salt & pepper, garlic powder, italian seasoning
sugar to taste


Heat oil over medium high heat in a large, deep saucepan. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook until onions begin to soften.

Add garlic and cook for a minute. Add mushrooms and mix together. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until mushrooms begin to soften. Mixture may look dry but the mushrooms will begin to release moisture after a minute or two.

While mixture is cooking, warm lentils according to package directions. Add lentils to pan. Add tomatoes and wine and bring to a boil. Reduce head and simmer for 30 minutes, partially covered, stirring occasionally.

Season to taste with salt/pepper, garlic powder and italian seasoning. Add sugar to taste. This depends on the tomatoes. Sometimes they’re very acidic and other times they aren’t. Taste your sauce and see…if it seems to sour, add sugar starting with a Tablespoon or so.

Serve on pasta!


For Christmas, Nate surprised me with a quick long-weekend trip to San Francisco over MLK weekend. He considers SF his “hometown” because he was born there- never mind that his parents moved to the east coast when he was 3 months old.

If you try to tell him that he’s from Delaware, he will vehemently deny it. I used to ask him why it was so important for him to be “from” San Francisco, but now that I’ve been there I can see why he’s so adamant about it being his birth place. It’s a beautiful city with equal parts beach, mountains, forests, suburbs, city. It has a little bit of everything.

view of SF from the Rock.

On Saturday we went to Alcatraz. The audio tour was beyond cool. If you haven’t been, you must go! We also visited the ferry building with its amazing food, the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts, the Wharf where dozens of sea lions come to sunbathe, and the picturesque Land’s End walking path with views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Sunday morning we ventured out to Muir Woods, hoping to get there before the crowds. I think it could be one of the prettiest, most serene places I’ve ever been. There’s something about a damp, shady forest that I find so relaxing…not to mention how amazingly fresh it smells!

I don’t know about you, but my sense of smell is my strongest sense and I find myself smelling everything. It’s a little weird, actually, the way I smell any new thing I encounter. For some reason I feel the need to assess a smell even if I know it’s going to be a bad one. Maybe I’m part dog.

Though nothing will even come close to the smell of that cool damp forest, odors emanating from the kitchen come a close second ;) While this soup isn’t the most fragrant thing I’ve ever cooked, it smells pretty darn delicious on a cold winter’s day, warming the room (and your belly!) right up.

It’s a very light soup, lighter than I’d imagined. I served it with some Cheddar Dill biscuits (recipe on Friday), but perhaps it would be best as a first course or a very light meal with some crusty bread.

Winter Vegetable Soup with Lentils

Slightly Adapted from Real Simple

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serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 leeks (white and light green parts), cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1/2 cup brown lentils
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp hot sauce (such as Tabasco) or more to taste
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce; optional)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.

Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, breaking them up with a spoon, for 5 minutes.

Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Stir in the sweet potatoes, kale, lentils, thyme, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Simmer until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread, biscuits, or as an appetizer.