Join us in the MEATLESS MONDAYS MOVEMENT! Our Meatless Makeover: Two Enlightened Bolognese Sauce Recipes

Annes Lentil Bolognese Sauce

Anne's Lentil Bolognese Sauce on Gluten-Free Spaghetti

Donnas Enlightened Bolognese Sauce

Donna's Enlightened Bolognese Sauce on Whole Wheat Penne Pasta

We at FFF have pledged to go meatless on Mondays!

The Meatless Mondays Movement is gaining momentum! Eating less meat makes sense in every possible way: health-wise, environment-wise and (note the emphasis of our blog) budget-wise!

We endorse Michael Pollan’s philosophy: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

To do our part, we will feature a delicious vegetarian recipe every Monday that traditionally was made with meat, but we will do a makeover and make it meatless: Meatless Monday Makeovers! Today we feature the classic meat pasta sauce – Bolognese.

Donna’s Sauce

I used to love the rich, meaty taste of classic  Bolognese sauce. But these days, I cook with less meat, especially red meat. So, I took on the challenge of making  a vegetarian version that has the same deep, rich flavor.

When my husband ate this sauce he said “Wow! Great! What’s in this?” I told him, and then he asked “But what meat did you use?” Hoooo000ooo-ray! Success! A rich, savory, and yes – “meaty” taste without meat!

The tricks are 1) grinding dried porcini mushrooms into a powder and adding that to the sauce and 2) adding soy sauce, which always adds richness or “umami.” Those two surprising ingredients add deepness and that “slow-cooked meat” taste. And, oh yes – 3) I threw in the rind of a wedge of Parmesan cheese – adding an extra layer of richness.

Adding powdered porcini mushrooms to sauce
Adding powdered porcini mushrooms to sauce
Dont forget to add the Parmesan rind
Don’t forget to add the Parmesan rind!


1/2 ounce dried porcini or shitake mushrooms
1 large white or yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons canola oil
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
1 cup water
1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes in puree
1 2-inch piece of Parmesan cheese, with rind

Pulverize the dried mushrooms in a spice grinder or blender to a fine powder and set aside.

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven to medium high heat. Add onions and celery and carrots and saute 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in cremini mushrooms and garlic and saute about another 5 minutes, until all vegetables are very soft. Add in soy sauce, vinegar, water and tomatoes. Bring to a boil.

Grate a little of the Parmesan so that you have just the rind left. Add the rind in to the sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sauce is very thick. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with pasta and sprinkled with remaining Parmesan cheese.

ANNE’S LENTIL BOLOGN-EASY SAUCE (Is that too Rachael Ray-ish? Forgive me.)

You know me and lentils. It’s a long-term love affair at this point. In fact, when I embarked on Phase One of the South Beach Diet recently, I was bummed out to go without lentils and other beloved legumes – until I learned from Kalyn’s Kitchen that I was actually operating according to the OLDER version of the plan. The new “supercharged” South Beach approach actually incorporates a variety of legumes into Phase One! I was, of course, stoked.

So here we have a lentil bolognese – packed with fiber and protein and all kinds of goodness. You can leave the milk (or cream) out at the very end, and it’s a delicious vegan sauce. I like the addition of milk, but I tasted it plenty of times before adding it in to finish, and it was super-tasty without as well.

1/2 cup red lentils, rinsed and sorted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounce can tomato paste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (anchovy-free vegetarian versions are available)
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)
fresh black pepper to taste
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup whole milk (optional) or cream (REALLY optional)

Cover lentils with water and boil for 15 minutes, then drain and set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet, add onions and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes or so. Add tomato paste, mixing in well with the garlic and onions. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan frequently, so the tomato paste is getting cooked and a bit browned but not burning.

Add balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, deglazing the bottom of the pan a bit. Add diced tomatoes, spices and broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add lentils back in and reduce to a low simmer for about 25 minutes, until liquids are reduced and mixture is thickened, stirring occasionally. Finish with milk or cream, if using, and adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with your favorite pasta (pictured above is Deboles’ Gluten-Free Corn Spaghetti), or think outside the pasta box and try it on rice or quinoa.

Best of all, it passed the toddler test with flying colors – and quite a few flying strands of spaghetti as well.

Other veggie bolognese sauce creations by fellow food bloggers:
Veggie Lentil Bolognese, Feeding Maybelle
Mushroom Bolognese
, The Family Table
Vegetarian Bolognese, Pink Bites
Meat Free Mondays Vegetarian Bolognese, Linda McCartney Foods

— posted by Donna and Anne


  1. says

    I tried the Bologn-easy sauce in a lasagne and it was absolutely delicious. I actually preferred the lentil bolognese to a meat bolognese. My mother used to make me a soy mince bolognese when I was a kid but the lentil bolognese just kills it :)

  2. says

    I made this for dinner tonight (Donna’s) and noticed it never says what to do with the pulverized mushrooms? It worked out well for me because I didn’t have any. I assumed they would be added with the other mushrooms/veggies. Delish!

    I ate it on noodles, but my hub is on a diet and had already eaten too many calories, so he ate it on shredded zucchini instead and had a second helping, which is a big stamp of approval.

  3. says

    I made the mushroom bolognaise with whey instead of water. INCREDIBLE! If you ever make cheese, this is an excellent way to use up the leftover whey! Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Morgan says

    That’s creative! I had never thought of a sauce like that!

    Thanks for the link to your blog, I had no idea you had a frugal food blog!

  5. says

    Thanks, Kalyn! I actually made this a second time and served it on top of spaghetti squash (I had just eaten it straight before, with Lily eating the gluten-free pasta). Wow, was that ever insanely good. Lily ate so much I was afraid she’d give herself a tummyache!


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