— by Kimberley Doerksen

As a kid, one of my favourite meals was spaghetti bolognese. There was a restaurant in the town that I grew up in called the Croaking Frog, and in my five-year-old mind, the spaghetti bolognese was to die for. It was definitely a comfort food for me. But the problem with this popular dish is that ground beef doesn’t sit so well in my stomach. Alternatives like ground turkey, or bison are great but I’m always interested in discovering new renditions of this classic pasta meal.

Cue the brilliance of Minimalist Baker. She has a knack for creating delicious vegetarian and vegan alternatives to old time favourites. I came across her Lentil Bolognese while scouring Pinterest for dinner ideas. It was amazing: hearty, delicious, and filling. This will be a sure go-to for me in the upcoming winter months.

Lentil Bolognese

INGREDIENTS:

– 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
– 1 shallot, minced
– 4 cloves garlic, minced (2 tbsp or 12g)
– 2-3 carrots, finely shredded (1 cup or 110g | I use the grater attachment on a food processor)
– Pinch sea salt, plus more to taste
– 26 ounces (737g) favorite marinara sauce (or sub tomato sauce* | I prefer Trader Joe’s brand Tomato Basil)
– Pinch red pepper flake
– 1 tsp dried basil
– 1 tsp dried oregano
– 1 tbsp (12g) coconut sugar for sweetness, plus more to taste
– 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
– 3/4 cup (144g) red lentils, rinsed and drained
– 1 package dry spaghetti
– Parmesan Cheese for serving

DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat a large rimmed skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add oil, shallot, and garlic. Sauté for two to three minutes, stirring frequently, until slightly softened and fragrant. Turn down heat if browning.
Add carrots and a pinch of salt and stir. Cook for three to four minutes more, then add marinara sauce and stir to coat.
2. Add red pepper flake, basil, oregano, coconut sugar, water, and lentils. Increase heat slightly and bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and continue cooking until lentils are tender — stirring occasionally — about 17-20 minutes. Add a bit more water if mixture gets too thick.
3. Once lentils are cooked, taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more salt to taste, coconut sugar for sweetness, red pepper flake for heat, or herbs for flavor balance.
4. While the sauce is cooking, cook up the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling water.
5. Serve the sauce over noodles of choice and garnish with desired toppings (Parmesan Cheese and red pepper flakes).
NOTE: Sauce will keep in the refrigerator up to three days, or in the freezer for a month.

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