lentil bolognese // plant based, gluten free + college approved

adulting is hard… this lentil bolognese is not.

I’m not in college anymore (sigh), but I do appreciate a simple, no nonsense, 20 minute recipe like this ridiculously easy lentil bolognese. Recently I was on the Actually Adultish Podcast. The hosts, UCLA students Nina and Christina of Addicted To Lovely asked Jess and I a lot of questions about how to stay healthy in college, how to know when you’re exercising is too much (is it becoming an obsession? might be too much!), and more tips for college health nuts. 

It really brought me back to my college days. It inspired me to make an adult recipe, that a college student can handle without any cooking experience, and still find yummy. Because what’s more adult than making your own pasta sauce rather than settling for a jar?

Only about two years ago I was living on my own with a few roommates and trying to figure out how to stay healthy without spending a ton of money, or spending all day in the kitchen. It was a little daunting. I tried to meal plan, prep a couple lunches at a time (salads in mason jars were my jam) but I never really felt confident in my skills.

lentil bolognese kaleinit

I wish I had this recipe back then. This lentil bolognese recipe is great for meatless monday and completely college approved. It’s absolutely fool proof, plus I offer some short cuts to make this recipe ready faster, and more simple. 

back at ASU when I would cook, it was usually a vegetarian meal. want to know why I used to cook a lot of veggies, grains and rice in college? 

cause you CAN’T get it totally wrong. you can over cook or undercook veggies- and still eat them. they won’t be the best you’ve ever tasted, but they sure won’t make you sick. pink chicken? no good. rubbery pork chop? ewww. 

so not only is it healthy to fill your meals with veggies and plant based ingredients, it’s also great for someone who is a real novice in the kitchen and just learning the ropes.

the 5 recipe starter kit.

If I had any advice for college ladies who want to start to cook for themselves, learn to make this lentil bolognese, a fried rice or stir fry, a quinoa salad, a green smoothie combo you love, and an overnight oat recipe you can prep the night before your AM class. that’s 5 recipes. very do-able, especially with one being a smoothie, I mean come on….

then fill in the gaps with snacks like almond butter and apples, kale chips, and avocado toast.

now let’s get to the delicious bolognese! traditionally bolognese is made with ground beef, but this one is made filling and hearty with lentils. lentils are a total superfood. they also put the whole “how do you get your protein?!?” question to shame with 20 grams of protein per serving.  I buy frozen organic lentils. they are WAY easier and faster than cooking the lentils from scratch. But, if you buy a bag of uncooked lentils, you’ll have meals for pennies- and you can still make this recipe in less than thirty minutes. 

this recipe is:

gluten free

dairy free


CHEAP to make

PACKED with protein and fiber

full of veggies

hearty and comforting

great warmed up as leftovers

perfect for impressing the hot guy down the hall (oh this??, I’m just making homemade sauce… no biggie…)

lentil bolognese kaleinit 


Plant-Based and Gluten Free Lentil Bolognese
  1. 1-2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  2. 1/2 of a white or yellow onion, chopped
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 10-12 baby carrots, chopped (can also sub shredded carrot)
  5. Pinch sea salt, plus black pepper to taste
  6. 1 can of diced tomato (low sodium)
  7. jar of your favorite marinara sauce
  8. 1 teaspoon dried basil
  9. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  10. 3/4 cup brown lentils, rinsed and drained OR 3/4 cup frozen lentils
  1. First chop the onion and carrot.
  2. Add oil to a large skillet and heat over medium heat, add garlic and cook until aromatic.
  3. Next, add the onion and carrot and cook for 5 minutes. Add jar of marinara, and dried herbs and stir to coat. Add diced tomato and lentils. Increase to medium-high heat and bring to a simmer.
  4. Check that lentils are cooked, add any seasoning you see fit (red pepper flakes, sea salt, additional garlic powder) and add a couple tablespoons of water if sauce seems too thick.
  5. Serve over zucchini noodles, brown rice spaghetti, or chickpea pasta (as shown).
  1. ** If using the frozen lentils, they don't require as much time to cook. Add lentils, bring to simmer, and reduce to low heat and cook for only 5-8 minutes if using frozen, pre-cooked lentils.
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 lentil bolognese kaleinit


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