This vegan 'bolognese' offers a satisfying, spicy and rich flavor

This vegan ‘bolognese’ offers a satisfying, spicy and rich flavor

‘Bolognaise’ with Mushrooms and Lentils

Active time:40 minutes

Total time:1 hour


Active time:40 minutes

Total time:1 hour



I’m generally not one to use quotes in recipe names, especially when it comes to plant-based versions of meat dishes. You know, “chicken” fried sandwiches when the “chicken” is actually oyster mushrooms, that sort of thing. In the recipes I’m developing for a new cookbook, I call a whole selection of bacon-esque versions “chips” for this very reason.

But sometimes you just can’t help it, like when you’re cooking a sauce that’s famous for using multiple types of meat and taking a long process, and you don’t do any of those things, but still want to evoke reference and sentiment. You want to focus on vegetables and you want to get dinner on the table fast.

This fantastic recipe from Ella Mills’ latest cookbook is a radical departure from the classic Italian ragu bolognese. It comes together fairly quickly for a weeknight and gets its depth of flavor not from meat or time, but from a clever combination of umami-packed ingredients: two types of mushrooms, two forms of tomato and of soy sauce. To all Italian purists, I know what you’re thinking.

I wanted the ultimate Bolognese. Six recipes later, I found the best stew of them all.

Here’s the thing: I no longer eat the meats that are in traditional bolognese, and yet I want something with the same vibe. So when I spotted the recipe in “How to Use Botanicals”, I gave it a whirl and enjoyed how the dried porcini mushrooms and fried creminis, as well as the canned (or all pre-cooked) lentils , gave me the same effect. I tossed the sauce with pasta, twirled my fork, and let out an audible sigh that communicated pure comfort and satisfaction.

In his book, Mills uses the B-word without any qualification, but I decided to give it the old quote treatment. You can do one or the other – or call it something else if you want – but whichever route you take, I hope you can get there. It is so good.

‘Bolognaise’ with Mushrooms and Lentils

The sauce is great over pasta, as pictured here, but you can also use it to top rice or other grains, or baked white or sweet potatoes.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 5 days. The sauce can be frozen for up to 3 months.

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  • 1 ¼ cup Scrambled vegetable broth or store-bought low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more as needed
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion (8 ounces), chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, washed and chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or light soy sauce
  • 2 cups tomato puree
  • Two (15 ounce) cans of green lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pound dried whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Pour broth into a microwave-safe bowl or liquid measuring cup and microwave on HIGH until hot, 1-2 minutes. Add the dried mushrooms and soak for 10 minutes, then pour the broth through a fine-mesh strainer to catch any grain. Rinse the mushrooms, squeeze out the extra water and chop them.

While the mushrooms are soaking, in a Dutch oven over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil until shimmering. Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 8 to 10 minutes .

Pour in the mushroom broth and chopped mushrooms, then add the tomato paste and tamari, stirring to combine. Bring to the boil, then add the tomato purée and the lentils. Return to a simmer and cook until the mixture thickens and the flavors have blended, 15 to 20 minutes.

While the lentil mixture cooks, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook spaghetti until al dente according to package directions. Drain well.

Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet over high heat, heat 1 tsp oil until shimmering. Working in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan, add a layer of mushrooms and cook undisturbed until lightly browned on one side, 1 minute. Flip the mushrooms and cook the other side until lightly browned, 1 minute. Transfer the cooked mushrooms to the lentil mixture. Continue with the remaining mushrooms, adding 1 teaspoon oil before frying each batch, and adding more oil as needed.

Stir the parsley into the sauce. Taste and season with more salt if needed.

Add the spaghetti to the sauce and toss until well coated, and serve hot.

Per serving (1 1/3 cup pasta plus 1 cup sauce)

Calories: 512; Total fat: 7 g; Saturated fat: 1 g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 445mg; Carbohydrates: 96g; Dietary fiber: 13g; Sugar: 11g; Protein: 27g

This analysis is an estimate based on the available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a dietitian or nutritionist.

Adapted from “How to Go Vegetarian” by Ella Mills (Mobius, 2022).

Tested by Joe Yonan; questions by e-mail to

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