This is an easy pasta plant-based meal we love to make in our home because it is plant protein packed, simple to prepare and delicious. It was actually one of the first recipes I developed when I was exploring plant-based cooking and it is now our frequently used recipe when we just want something filling, tasty and nutritious that is quick to put together. Not only is it vegan, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free and nut-free, this dish can also be gluten-free if you use gluten-free pasta, zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash noodles. Whenever I serve it to non-vegans, they enjoy this dish as well. Take the leftovers to work for lunch the next day or pack it into your children’s school lunchboxes, or freeze some for a satisfying meal at a later date!
A vegan, egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free and nut-free dish that is simple to put together but satisfying as a main course meal. Pair with whole grain noodles or gluten-free pasta, zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash noodles.
- 2 cups cooked green lentils [306 g] (or use canned green lentils drained and rinsed)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil (or other vegetable oil)
- ¼ cup diced onion [28 g]
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ cup diced tomatoes [70 g]
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 cup tomato-based pasta sauce [240 mL]
- 1 ½ cups vegetable broth [360 mL] divided (or use leftover lentil cooking water, or just water)
- ½ cup grated carrots [50 g] (optional)
- ½ cup bell peppers, diced [69 g]
- 1 ½ cups chopped white button mushrooms [124 g] (or cremini mushrooms)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/8 teaspoon salt (add more if desired)
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper (add more if desired)
- 1 box whole wheat fusilli pasta [1 box is equivalent to 375 g of uncooked pasta] (or gluten-free alternative)
Cook the green lentils if you don’t have any already cooked (Read here for guidance on how to cook green lentils). Otherwise if you are using canned green lentils, drain these and rinse the lentils before using.
Mince the garlic and dice the onions and tomato. Heat the teaspoon of oil in a medium pot on a medium stove heat setting.
Once heated, add the onions and garlic and sauté until the onion pieces are soft and translucent. Then add the diced tomatoes and dried basil. Sauté for 2-3 minutes. (For an oil-free recipe, see Recipe Notes.)
Next, add in the 2 cups of cooked green lentils, pasta sauce and ½ cup [120 mL] of the vegetable broth (water or lentil cooking water can be used instead). Stir until all is combined well. Let the sauce cook for about 2-3 minutes.
While the sauce is cooking, cut up the bell peppers and mushrooms. Grate the carrots (optional) using a large holed cheese grater. Then add in the bell peppers, mushrooms, carrots, oregano, the remaining amount of vegetable broth, as well as salt and pepper.
Let the sauce cook on the stove on a low-medium setting for at least 15 - 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce should be continuously simmering on a gentle boil. You may cook whole wheat fusilli pasta, whole wheat spaghetti noodles or gluten-free alternative in a separate pot during this time, following the package directions. (Alternatively, you can prepare zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash noodles at this time).
Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings as desired, then serve with the cooked fusilli pasta (or gluten-free alternative). Garnish with some fresh basil and a sprinkle of vegan cheese shreds on top if you like.
For an oil-free recipe, put 2 tablespoons of vegetable broth into a well heated skillet on medium heat, then add in the diced onions and minced garlic. Sauté this for 2-3 minutes or until the onion pieces turn soft and translucent. You can turn down the heat setting slightly and add in 1-2 more tablespoons of vegetable broth into the skillet if the contents seem to be getting very dry during this time. Then proceed with the rest of the recipe steps.
I usually pre-cook some green lentils the day before, so that the next day it is faster to make the sauce. But you could also just soak the lentils overnight and then cook them on the stove while you are preparing the other sauce ingredients. When the lentils are cooked through, add in the measured amount of drained cooked lentils into the pot of sauce cooking on the stove.
Feel free to add more diced onions if you like, and adjust the amount of pepper and salt to your liking. Using carrots in this recipe is optional – the sauce will still taste great without carrots if you don’t want to add them!
As with all sauces, the longer you can simmer the sauce and let it cook, the richer and more flavorful it becomes. That’s why if I have the time, I let the sauce pot sit (with the lid cover on part way) on the stove top on a low heat setting and just cook away, allowing the wonderful aroma of cooking pasta sauce to waft through the rest of the house. I check on the pot every now and then, stirring the contents a little and add in any leftover lentil cooking water (or vegetable broth or water) whenever the sauce starts looking dry. I often end up adding all the leftover lentil cooking water I had saved previously! This pasta sauce also freezes well in a freezer safe container, so you could make a larger batch and then freeze part of the portion for a later date. Enjoy!