If you can’t tell already, if it ain’t pasta, it ain’t dinner. That’s not entirely true, but we do love noodles around here. And humans are wired to dig pasta, no?
Spaghetti has been my favorite meal since I can remember. In the South this dish is prepared with ground beef in the marinara. My entire childhood was spent trying to convince my parents to leave the beef out of it, which resulted in the typical, “But how will you get your protein?” followed by me spending most of my dinner picking the bits out of my marinara and feeding it to the dogs before my parents could see. I didn’t know there was a name for what I was at the time, but it’s how I became a vegetarian 🙂
Now that I’m all grown up (that could be debated), I can make spaghetti however I wish! During my first trip to Italy I even photographed my spaghetti (the stuff of dreams, my friends) and sent it to my parents as proof. No beef there! What they had been making was bolognese, I came to find out.
I continued making spaghetti as it was intended, but the hubby always felt it was missing something. Then, I came across this recipe for Mushroom and Lentil “Bolognese” by One Hungry Mama. This recipe makes everyone happy: I get my pasta dish sans the meat, the hubs gets the “more” he was looking for, and Mom & Dad, you can be happy that I’m getting my protein 😉 Oh, and it’s the kid’s favorite meal!
Mushroom & Lentil “Bolognese”
One Hungry Mama
2 teaspoons neutral oil such as grape seed (you can substitute olive oil)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped (we omit this)
1 small onion, chopped
1 8-ounce package baby bella mushrooms (you can substitute white button mushrooms) (we also omit this because the husband doesn’t like shrooms – what?!)
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
2-3 cups water
2 bay leaves
5 fresh basil leaves, torn
Salt and fresh pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, to finish
1. Heat oil in a large dutch oven set over medium heat. Once hot, add garlic, carrot, celery and onion. Saute until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, stir and cook for 5 more minutes.
2. Add wine and cook until it’s cooked off by about three quarters (my favorite part – chin chin!). Add tomato paste and cook for a full minute, stirring all the while, to “toast” it.
3. Add lentils, chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, 2 cups of water and bay leaves to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the lentils are cooked through and the sauce thickens to desired consistency. If it thickens too quickly, leaving you with not enough sauce, add up to one more cup of water, 1/2 cup at a time.
4. Take off heat and stir in basil leaves. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Finish with a healthy glug of olive oil. Spoon over pasta (we use brown rice pasta) to serve; top with Parmesan cheese, unless you want to keep this vegan.