Lentil Bolognese? Now hear me out. I am not ragging on traditional Bolognese sauce. In fact, I have an old (scribbled on a grease splashed piece of paper-old), favorite recipe for that. That being said I saw Joanne’s gorgeous rendition of vegetarian lentil Bolognese, and I just had to try it. I made a few modifications because in our house Bolognese is Italian for clean-out-the-fridge, and here we are. It is hearty and fabulous and really everything you could ever want in a meatless “meat sauce.” Oh and I apologize in advance, Bolognese sauce is probably the least photogenic thing in the world during a Florida afternoon shower. You’ve been warned. Back to the real issue here though: why a vegetarian version of the classic? Well for 1) The classic contains chicken livers (don’t knock it till you try it), which for some reason are only ever sold bulk. (But really please introduce me to the person who has an actual need for 30 chicken livers at one go…Actually never mind. Please don’t.) And 2) These days we fall into the almost-tarian category, incorporating meat and fish into our diet about twice a week, and we are always looking to try out new ideas.
Reflecting on this vegetarian version of the classic, it’s hard to believe how much my time in the kitchen has changed our lifestyle—especially considering that we had no concrete intentions of embarking on said lifestyle change. I grew up in a pretty environmentally conscious household; we recycled, brought our own grocery bags, used glass bottles instead of disposable plastic, and often considered the impact of our actions on those around us. However, we rarely considered the impact of our food choices. While this inadvertent lifestyle change was somewhat influenced by the writing of one of my favorite bloggers, Sonja of A Couple Cooks, this article really spoke to me. I’m all about everything in moderation, and I am a firm believer that things are rarely always right or always wrong. Including the way one eats. For example, spending a summer on Scott’s family’s wheat farm in Nebraska, taught me that while “organic” may sometimes mean “better for you,” it is too often used as a buzzword. Thus, the name of the game should never be “I’m right, you’re wrong;” it’s awareness (of both sides) that is what’s important. While we are not under the illusion that cutting out meat will erase our carbon footprint, we do our best to file this awareness about what we eat and what we do for our earth under that every-little-bit-helps tab!
Funnily enough, despite this aforementioned lifestyle change, my little blog baby has yet to find its proverbial voice, both in terms of my writing and my cooking. In fact, I have come to realize that my writing changes with my mood. Sometimes it’s witty, sometimes it’s introspective, and sometimes it’s simply short and sweet. Sometimes it’s all about my life, and conversely sometimes it’s all about the food. Many successful bloggers have one particular style leaving enamored readers consistently coming back for more. I hate to do the same thing every day, which can make not having a go-to style both a blessing and a large source of frustration. However, following another of my favorite bloggers in medicine, Annie’s Eats, I do consistently try my best to leave my professional life at the door and make reliable meals from scratch using fresh, simple ingredients. Otherwise, I am still working to find the perfect spot for this virtual baby. Are you up for the adventure? I certainly am. After all, it is often the journey rather than destination that has the potential to fill you with the most joy.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 cup yellow onion (about 2 onions), finely chopped
- 1 large rib celery, finely chopped
- 3 small/medium-sized carrots, finely chopped
- 8 oz. button mushrooms, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 cup brown or green lentils, rinsed
- One 28-ounce can diced or crushed tomatoes, with juices
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup red wine
- ¾ cup water
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- Pasta of choice for serving
- Roughly chop onion, celery, and carrots. Transfer to food processor and pulse 4-5 times until just finely chopped (alternatively chop by hand). Heat 1 ½ tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, and then add the onion, celery, and carrots. Cook for 8 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are soft.
- While the onion mixture is cooking, roughly chop mushrooms, transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to finely chop as above. Add the finely chopped mushrooms and garlic to the pot. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft and have released some liquid and the garlic is fragrant.
- Add the lentils, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, water, rosemary, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, salt and black pepper to the pot. Stir well and bring to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are cooked through but not mushy. If the mixture becomes overly thick (if it's tough to stir and no liquid is visible at the bottom), add some water by the ¼ cup.
- About 15 minutes before the sauce is ready, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and toss with the remaining ½ tablespoon olive oil. Stir fresh basil into sauce and serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
- Serves 6.