This is one of my favourite recipes for a long-time. A flavourful lentil ragu, with red wine, rosemary and layer upon layer of deep, savoury umami flavour that brings a tonne of satisfaction. This vegan ragu is ready in a little over 30 minutes and will “wow” the whole family.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Table of contents
Maybe it’s just because there’s 187ml’s of red wine in it, but I think this green lentil ragu is absolutely stunning. It’s built like a traditional meat-based ragu would be, starting with finely chopped carrot, onion and celery. Then there are layers of flavour from the garlic, rosemary and wine. These are followed by a double whammy of umami goodness from miso paste and finely diced sundried tomatoes before we add the meat of this dish, fabulous green lentils.
You can’t go wrong with this dish! Its first incarnation was with red lentils, but they kinda turned to mush and whilst the dish was tasty, the texture was WAY off. In contrast, green lentils retain their shape and some bite. A fabulous dish, honestly, I cannot wait for your comments and feedback on this one!
I’ve gotten right into cooking with lentils since the turn of the year. They’re so versatile. When I developed my Aubergine Lasagne recipe, which btw, is my most popular to date – I was like, “WOW, lentils are great”. It might sound strange, given that it was made with ready-cooked puy lentils, but that was the recipe that opened my eyes to the versatility of lentils.
There’s a fantastic piece of the different types of lentils over on Bon Appetit.
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I’ve already given you the lowdown on what makes up this fab dish, so now let’s go into why. First though, here’s your shopping list for everything you need to make this simple lentil ragu.
- 1 large carrot
- A stick of celery
- 1 medium onion
- A sprig of rosemary
- A tablespoon of brown rice miso
- 75 grams of sundried tomatoes
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 187ml bottle of red wine
- A 400 gram tin of plum tomatoes
- 200 grams of green lentils
- 250ml of freshly boiled water
- Salt & pepper
- Pasta to serve.
In a traditional meat ragu, you get most of the savoury notes from beef stock, and the meat itself. Here, we don’t have that. Vegetable stock, unless made up predominantly of mushrooms, is not packed with umami flavour.
Umami is the fifth taste, after salt, sour, sweet and bitter. So here we’re adding that umami savouriness with miso and sundried tomatoes, both of which have a strong umami flavour. If you don’t have access to miso, you could use soy sauce or a yeast extract like Marmite to add that deeper flavour to a dish.
I’m currently writing all about umami and adding flavour to vegan dishes because I find the topic fascinating. It’s also vital, particularly when you’re moving from a carnivorous diet towards a vegan one.
I decided to go for a single herb, rosemary, for this dish because it absolutely sings alongside the miso and the red wine. Everything about this dish is carefully balanced. If you’re worried that the rest of a bunch of rosemary will head towards the back of the fridge and die, then you could use dried Italian herbs in the place of fresh rosemary.
Vegan Lentil Ragu Recipe – Step by Step
Carrot, celery and onions, finely chopped are called mirepoix (pronounced: meer-pwah) and are the aromatic flavour base for many savoury dishes. This is where we’ll start this recipe.
Dice the three vegetables patiently into small cubes. If you’re feeling particularly impatient, you could chop them into larger chunks and then blitz in the food processor. This will save time but affect the final texture of the dish. I choose the patient way because I find something quite therapeutic about the slow, careful dicing.
It’s even more calming and therapeutic if you’ve bought yourself a big bottle of wine for the ragu, and have ⅔’s left to consume. I digress.
Add about a tablespoon of oil to a saute pan. We really love cold-pressed rapeseed oil now that we’re avoiding butter. I miss butter. I really miss butter! If you’re reading in the UK, I’d highly recommend checking out Lidl for the oil. It’s an excellent price and quality.
Heat the oil over medium-low heat, and add the vegetables. Cook for about 10 minutes until the carrot and celery are soft and the onion translucent.
While the mirepoix is doing its thing, remove the leaves from a sprig of rosemary, and finely chop with three cloves of garlic, and 75 grams of sundried tomatoes (the ones that come in oil). Add this finely chopped mush to the pan with the onion, carrot and celery and cook for another couple of minutes.
Next, it’s time for the fun part, turn the heat up to high and tip in your 187ml bottle of red wine – and cook until it’s volume has reduced by half. OK, actually now I’ve typed it, maybe not so fun watching an entire mini bottle of red wine disappear before your very eyes. Still, it’s all about the flavour.
Rinse the green lentils in a sieve under cold running water and add to the pan, along with a can of plum tomatoes, 250ml of freshly boiled water, a vegetable stock cube and a tablespoon of miso, and bring to a simmer. Be sure to break up the tomatoes with a spoon, and then season liberally with salt and pepper. Stir the beginnings of our gorgeous ragu and let simmer for 20 – 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure you check your lentils for doneness before serving, sometimes they may need an extra 5 minutes or so.
Now it’s time to pop the pasta on whilst you wait. I love a tagliatelle with this green lentil ragu, but you could go for spaghetti or even go mad and grab yourself a rigatoni. Ooooh she FANCY!
Serving your Simple Lentil Ragu
The best way to serve this dish, in my opinion, is to first toss the pasta in the ragu, so it gets a lovely coating of that rich, wine laden sauce.
Transfer the coated pasta to a bowl, or plate, and then spoon over some more ragu. The lentils won’t cling to the pasta as the sauce does, so spoon it over. Finally, grate over some vegan parmesan, I really like the Violife stuff, delish, and then top with flat-leaf parsley. Bellissimo.
Oh, feel free to serve up some garlic bread alongside the whole thing.
Storing + Reheating
You can store this lentil ragu in the fridge for up to 5 days, simply reheating in the microwave for 3 minutes, stirring halfway. I want to add here that this ragu makes a MAGNIFICENT grilled cheese/ toasted sandwich, with a little sprinkle of vegan cheddar and a swoosh of dijon, honestly, TRY IT.
You can freeze the ragu (no pasta please) for up to 3 months. If you store the ragu in a freezer-proof bag, you can cook from frozen in a saucepan of boiling water. Alternatively, store in an airtight container and allow to thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating. Reheat in a saucepan over medium-low heat or in the microwave until piping hot.
Variations & Changes
I mentioned up top that you could substitute miso for soy sauce or marmite to amp up the flavour, but you could also sub in about 25 grams of rehydrated dried mushrooms, and that will give a whack of umami flavour.
Whilst we’re on mushrooms, if you’re not about popping wine into your food, that’s totally fine. Use the liquid from rehydrated mushrooms, or better yet, go out and find yourself some grape juice, and add a tiny splash of red wine vinegar to it.
If you wanted to add additional vegetables that you’ve got kicking about to the mirepoix in the beginning, then the likes of parsnips and mushrooms can be added to save them from going to waste.
More Lentil Recipes
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- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 large carrot
- 1 stick of celery
- 1 medium onion
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 75 g sundried tomatoes
- 187 ml red wine
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 1 400g tin plum tomatoes
- 250 ml freshly boiled water
- 1 tbsp brown rice miso
- 200 g green lentils
- 280 g pasta I prefer tagliatelle with this dish, but spaghetti, linguine or anything else you desire will work.
- salt + pepper
- Peel and dice the carrot and onion into small, even-sized pieces. Cut the celery stick in the same way. Add the diced vegetable to a saute pan with the oil, and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes – or until the carrots are soft and the onion is translucent.
- Add finely chopped rosemary, sundried tomatoes and garlic to the pan. Cook for another 2 minutes.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high, and add the wine. Cook until the volume of wine has reduced by half.
- Rinse the lentils in a sieve under cold running water. Add to the pan along with all remaining ingredients, breaking up plum tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 – 25 minutes, stirring occassionally.
- Cook pasta as per pasta instrcution.
- Check that your lentils are cooked, to your liking, they should still have some bite. Cook for a further 5 minutes if neccersary.Drain the pasta, and stir into the sauce to coat with tomato sauce. Transfer portions to serving plate, spooning over extra lentil ragu.
- Scatter over some fresh parsley, and serve.