This hearty vegan mushroom and lentil ragu recipe is a delicious, protein-rich and healthy take on the classic Italian Bolognese pasta sauce but loaded with depth earthy flavors of meaty mushrooms! Serve the wholesome lentil ragu sauce with your favorite pasta variety like gluten-free spaghetti, pappardelle, and lasagna, or over mashed potatoes, creamy polenta, gnocchi, rice or just with naan!
Today, I have a wonderful and cozy comfort food recipe to share with you which I love to make over and over again! This savory Lentil and Mushroom Ragu with Pappardelle Pasta is another super easy dish that is actually inspired by my classic vegan Bolognese recipe. It is not only extra comforting and nourishing but also the perfect hearty meal that is sure to satisfy!
Vegan Mushroom and Lentil Ragu
To clarify, I’m not calling this dish primarily a spaghetti bolognese, because the hearty mushroom and lentil sauce reminds rather of a stew or vegan ragu. While traditional bolognese pasta is made of minced beef and pork, I made my ragu with a hearty mix of mushrooms and lentils that get all stewy with onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, thyme, and more flavorful spices.
Certainly, I find that soy sauce (or Tamari sauce or balsamic vinegar) brings out a rich flavor in the mushrooms. In addition, I also use a bit of red wine to bring even more flavor to the Lentil Mushroom Ragu. The earthy umami flavor of this hearty sauce smells absolutely amazing and once you take your first bite, you’ll be in love! It’s packed with plant-based protein and fiber from lentils, as well as other healthy nutrients and vitamins to nourish your body!
Tips and substitutes
How can I serve this Ragu?
While I have served the Mushroom and Lentil Ragu with pappardelle here, you can use all types of pasta like linguine, penne, macaroni, spaghetti, lasagna, etc. Also, homemade vegan pasta, gluten-free noodles, veggie noodles as well as grain-free lentil or chickpea pasta, would be great. Moreover, if you’re not into pasta, feel free to serve the sauce over mashed potatoes, gnocchi, creamy polenta, rice or just with naan bread like a curry.
Can I substitute the mushrooms?
If you don’t like mushrooms feel free to substitute other vegetables like red bell pepper, zucchini, eggplant or cauliflower. However, I find mushrooms or eggplants will do best here as they have a meaty consistency once sautéed to perfection! Furthermore, if using eggplant, I recommend soaking the finely chopped pieces in salt to soften. You can find helpful tips in my recipe for Chinese eggplants.
Which lentils can I use?
I used green lentils here which take around 30 to 35 minutes to cook. Of course, you could also use another lentil variety such as brown, black, red or yellow lentils but you may adjust the cooking time. To speed this recipe up, you could also use 1 cup canned cooked lentils. If you do so, please omit the 1 cup of vegetable broth in this recipe.
Which tomatoes can I use?
To keep things simple, I used canned diced tomatoes. However, feel free to use your favorite organic pasta sauce or passata. If you’d like using fresh tomatoes, head over my tomato soup recipe for helpful tips.
Can I skip the red wine?
The small quantity of wine will enhance the flavor of this mushroom and lentil ragu. Honestly, you don’t need to worry about the alcohol as it evaporates while the sauce is cooking, and only the flavor remains. However, if you don’t want to add wine, you can substitute with water or more vegetable broth. To make the sauce creamier and richer, feel free to use coconut milk.
Can I make this nut-free?
I also added some finely crushed walnuts to add some richness and nutty flavor to this Lentil and Mushroom Ragu. But if you have a nut allergy, simply leave them out or substitute sunflower seeds or hemp seeds.
Can I make this ahead and freeze?
Firstly, this Lentil and Mushroom Stew Ragu is perfect to make ahead as it tastes even better the next day after the flavors had a chance to unfold. Secondly, you could also freeze the sauce in an airtight container for later use, then defrost it in the refrigerator overnight. When ready to serve, reheat on the stove and toss with your favorite pasta or serve just with toast, flatbread, tortillas or whatever side you like!
How to make Mushroom and Lentil Ragu
Start to sauté the onion, carrots, and celery until slightly softened. Then add the finely chopped mushrooms and continue cooking until the mushrooms have released most of their moisture. Add the soy or tamari sauce, garlic, and lentils and cook for another minute until fragrant.
Once the veggies are tender, pour in the wine, and cook for a minute until most of it has evaporated. Then add in the tomatoes, vegetable broth, tomato paste, bay leaves, thyme, paprika, miso (if using), and salt. Stir to combine and simmer until the lentils are done, depending on which kind of lentils you use.
For the optimal timing, I recommend cooking the pasta when the saucy stew is around 15 minutes from being done. While the pasta is cooking you can also sauté some extra garlic mushrooms for the topping as instructed in this recipe, however, this is just optional. Once the pasta and the mushroom lentil ragu is done, serve in bowls and garnish with vegan parmesan cheese and fresh herbs or serve it just as it is!
This Mushroom and Lentil Ragu Sauce is:
- Vegan (meat-less, dairy-free)
- Can be made gluten-free
- Easy to make
- Slightly smoky
- Packed with umami flavor
- The perfect cozy weeknight dinner!
Looking for more vegan lentil or curry recipes? If so, make sure to check out the following dishes:
- Lentil Meatballs in Indian Curry Sauce
- Vegan Lentil Zucchini Lasagna
- Sweet Potato Lentil Fritters
- Vegan Lentil Bolognese
- Cauliflower Tikka Masala
- Vegan Black Lentil Curry
If you do try this Vegan Mushroom and Lentil Stew Ragu Recipe, please leave me a feedback and rating below how you liked this sauce! And if you take a photo of your hearty meal and share it on Instagram, please tag me @biancazapatka and use the hashtag #biancazapatka because I love seeing your remakes! Happy cooking!
Mushroom and Lentil Ragu Pasta
- 1-2 tbsp olive oil for frying
- 1 onion finely chopped
- 1 large carrot finely chopped
- 1 stick celery finely chopped
- 8,8 oz mushrooms finely chopped
- 2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari sauce or balsamic vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- ½ cup dry green lentils or brown lentils or canned lentils (*see notes)
- ½ cup red wine or sub more veggie broth/water or coconut milk for richness
- 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes or passata or whole crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup vegetable broth or more as needed
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tsp thyme leaves fresh or dried
- 1 tsp smoked paprika powder
- 1 tsp miso paste optional
- ¼ tsp salt adjust to taste
- ¼ cup walnuts crushed (optional)
* See step-by-step photos above!
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Cook for about 3-5 minutes, until the onion starts to turn translucent. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms have released most of their water. Add the soy sauce, garlic, and lentils and cook for another minute, stirring frequently until fragrant.
- Pour in the wine, and cook for a minute until most of it has evaporated. Then add in the tomatoes, vegetable broth, tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme, paprika, miso (if using), and salt. Stir to combine and bring it to a boil. Reduce it to a simmer, cover the pan and cook for 30 to 35 minutes until the lentils are done. (If the sauce becomes too thick, add more veggie broth or water). Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Remove the bay leave in the end and stir in the crushed walnuts if using.
- Start to cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water according to package instructions around 15 minutes before the sauce is done. Once the pasta is al dente, drain the cooking water and toss in a little bit of olive oil (optional to prevent from sticking). Also, sauté the extra garlic mushrooms in a skillet for the topping as instructed in this recipe.
- Serve the pasta with the mushroom and lentil ragu and garnish with extra garlic mushrooms, vegan parmesan cheese, and fresh herbs or any topping you like. Enjoy!
- To speed up this recipe, you can use 1 cup canned lentils (drained & rinsed). If you do so, please omit the 1 cup of water in the recipe and adjust the cooking time.
- You can use your favorite (gluten-free) pasta variety or homemade pasta or serve the sauce over mashed potatoes, creamy polenta, gnocchi, rice or just with naan bread on the side.
- See blog post for recipe substitutions and more helpful tips and information, including making ahead and freezing.
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