This simple lentil bolognese sauce is a vegan version of the Italian classic, made with hearty quinoa, whole peeled tomatoes, and all-natural ingredients.
Today I'm partnering with my friends from Tuttorosso to not only give you this cozy lentil bolognese recipe but also talk about canned tomatoes.
I've been using canned tomatoes my whole life. Growing up in an Italian family, my mom (and grandmother) would make spaghetti sauce from scratch all the time. Without giving away our secret recipe, the base is a blend of a bunch of different types of canned tomatoes – sauce, paste, diced and crushed – so while I'm very familiar with those types, I do have to admit my knowledge of the whole peeled variety is somewhat lackluster.
This is why when Tuttorosso asked if I would be interested in being an ambassador, specifically talking about their whole peeled tomatoes, I jumped at the chance. Not only did I already love their tomatoes, but this was going to give me a chance to really explore how to use this type of tomato in my cooking.
Our first challenge? To compare the integrity of Tuttorosso tomatoes vs. Hunts tomatoes.
At first, this challenge sounded kind of silly, but as soon as I cracked open the cans I realized why we were doing this. If you're anything like me, then you've probably never thought about what the whole tomatoes look like when they come out of the can. So you can imagine my surprise when I poured out both cans and the difference was incredible.
Not only was the color a lot more vibrant, but it was how the actual tomatoes looked.
The Tuttorosso ones were actually whole. I mean…what a novel concept, right? Whole peeled tomatoes that come out of the can WHOLE. Hunts on the other hand? Some were whole, but most were smashed.
It kind of makes you think, doesn't it? What's different about some canned products? So I started doing a little digging and what I came to discover was that, unlike other popular brands (like Hunts), Tuttorosso not only doesn't use preservatives, but their tomatoes are also sustainably produced, non-GMO verified, have no artificial colors or flavors, are allergen-free, are made in the US AND they're in non-BPA lined cans.
Given all that…I'm not surprised their tomatoes were in way better shape. (and that they also tasted better)
When it got to cooking with them, I wanted to try something a little different than I'm used to. I was initially thinking a stew, but I got pulled back to my Italian roots and decided on a vegan bolognese instead. The beauty of this sauce is you only need one can of tomatoes and it's packed with veggies. The base is tomatoes, carrots and shallots and the “meatiness” comes in the form of lentils and quinoa.
Similarly to my chilis, adding quinoa to the sauce helps it thicken it, but also provides the illusion of ground meet. Plant-based, high in protein and looks like a meat sauce? Perfection.
Also, I like my sauces super thick, so rather than using tomato paste, I decided to puree some of the tomatoes with the carrot-shallot mixture. This helped make the bolognese hearty, but still light because it was only vegetables.
OH annnnnd to keep it as light as possible, we're serving this beaut over spaghetti squash.
If you haven't discovered spaghetti squash yet, this lentil bolognese is probably one of the best trials. Because for those who are a little wary of the sqaushy flavor (like Matt), the sauce masks the flavor every so slightly and the spaghetti squash ends up really just acting as a serving vessel rather than the main focus of the meal.
On the flip side though, if you already love spaghetti squash (like hello…me!), then there's not much to explain, right? Meaty tomato sauce + spaghetti squash = dinner gold 🙂
Although my Italian side of the family would (and probably will) be slightly horrified to read that I made a bolognese sauce sans ground meat and red wine, I will say, I'm totally digging it. In fact, it really couldn't be more up my alley these days.
I'm really enjoying turing my meals into meatless adventures and honestly feel like the more beans I'm eating, the better I'm feeling (more on that whole situation later). For now, it's all about having simple, easy and affordable meals that we can make in a snap and still enjoy just as much as if there were meat inside.
What do you think about trying to make healthier, meatless meals a few days per week? If your family hasn't started doing this, is there something stopping you? And if you have, what are your favorite meals? I'm always looking for a weeknight meal inspiration, so please share any of your favorite recipes below!
And don't forget about the tomato test! I'm definitely planning to apply these principles across all my canned goods – making sure that if I'm buying canned it's the highest quality possible.
More incredible Tuttorosso Recipes to try:
- One-Pot Italian Quinoa with Tomatoes & Basil
- Spring Vegetable Quinoa Minestrone
- Creamy Italian Quinoa Soup
- Quinoa Stuffed Eggplant with Tahini Sauce
- Quick & Healthy Tomato Bisque
- 30-Minute Vegetarian Spaghetti Squash Boats
Quinoa + Lentil Bolognese with Spaghetti Squash
- 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes (I used Tuttorosso)
- 1 cup diced carrots about 2 medium
- 1/2 cup diced shallots about 1 large
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 cup cooked lentils
- 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
- Olive oil for cooking
- Salt + pepper to taste
- Fresh herbs + grated cashews/parmesan cheese to garnish
- 1 large spaghetti squash or 2 medium
- Prepare the spaghetti squash according to this recipe/method. While spaghetti squash is roasting, make the sauce.
- Drain the tomatoes from the can. Set 4 - 5 whole tomatoes aside and the chop remaining, reserving as much juice as possible.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add carrots, shallots and garlic and saute until garlic is fragrant, about 2 - 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer carrot-shallot mixture to a blender along with whole tomatoes that you set aside. Add 1/4 cup of tomato juice from the can (also called the media) to the blender and puree on high until smooth. Return sauce to the skillet.
- Stir in chopped tomatoes, remaining tomato juice/liquid, and the other remaining ingredients. Stir and allow to come to a small simmer. Allow mixture to simmer for 10 - 15 minutes to let the flavor develop, tasting and seasoning with salt and pepper about half way through.
- When read to serve, scoop out spaghetti squash and transfer to plates. Top with sauce, fresh herbs, "cheese" and additional salt and pepper if desired. (you can also add crushed red pepper flakes if you like some heat)
This post was sponsored by Tuttorosso, but all opinions are my own. As always, thank you for supporting the brands that I love and I hope you try their tomatoes – I'm not even kidding when I tell you that the quality is out of this world (and the flavor is amazing!)
New to cooking quinoa? Grab your FREE Quinoa Starter Guide!
Become part of the Simply Quinoa community and receive weekly emails with exclusive content that I only share in email, as well as my in-depth guide to starting your quinoa journey.