This is a wonderfully rich, low-calorie vegan version of Bolognese, so good that even the hardened meat-eaters in my family love it. The key is to use puy lentils (the dark speckled green type) which hold their shape and bite when cooked, and building flavour through the use of minced mushrooms, a good quality vegetable stock and a rich tomato sauce.
It does take a little time to put together, but most of that time it is bubbling away doing its own thing and it is very simple to make. This is an adaptation of a Jamie Oliver recipe, so you know it’s going to be good…
RECIPE serves 4
For the tomato sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
For the Bolognese:
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
a small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked
4 large portobello mushrooms
100 g dried Puy lentils
400 ml dark vegetable stock
350 g dried pappadelle
freshly picked basil leaves
vegan Parmesan cheese
First, make the tomato sauce:
Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the garlic, cook gently for a minute until aromatic, then add the chilli flakes and oregano. Cook for a further minute, allowing the flavours to infuse the oil, then add the tomatoes and fish sauce. Mix thoroughly, bring to the boil, then simmer gently for an hour to allow the sauce to reduce, thicken and intensify.
After an hour, add the red wine vinegar and cook for a couple of minutes.
Meanwhile, peel and prepare the carrot, onion and garlic, trim the celery and roughly chop it all. Pulse it all in a food processor, until finely chopped.
Heat a good splash of oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the chopped veg mixture and bay leaves, pick in the thyme leaves and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes or until soft.
Blitz the mushrooms in the food processor until finely chopped. Add to the pan and cook for 3 minutes, until softened.
Stir in the lentils, tomato sauce and vegetable stock, bring to the boil and simmer uncovered on a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Check and adjust the seasoning right at the end.
When the lentils are almost done, cook the pappardelle according to the packet instructions, until al dente.
Drain the pasta and stir it through the Bolognese sauce. Pick the basil leaves and sprinkle over the Bolognese with shavings of vegan Parmesan to serve. The Parmesan is used as a seasoning here, so feel free to omit it if you cannot find the vegan version.
Serve alongside a bowl of rocket, splashed with a little freshly squeezed lemon juice.