A Plant-Based Spin on a Traditional Dish
Spaghetti Bolognese is typically as hardy and calorie-dense as it gets – a mountain of refined carbohydrates (in the form of spaghetti noodles) topped with a fatty meat-based sauce. Cheese usually shows up in copious amounts too. It’s certainly delicious, but tends to trigger an immediate food coma. It’s definitely not a food-allergy friendly or health friendly meal. This simple take on spaghetti Bolognese changes the game by replacing the pasta with spaghetti squash and turning the meaty sauce into a lentil-based, veggie-packed, slow-cooked savory dish. The resulting combination is filling and flavorful – as well as entirely plant-based. It’s rich in fiber, protein, and micronutrients, making it the ideal weeknight supper. Leftovers are easy to pack up for lunch the next day too.
If you’re working on transitioning yourself or your family to a plant-centered diet, this recipe is a great place to start. Replace the spaghetti squash with traditional pasta if you need a slower introduction to new flavors and textures. The resulting dish will still be much healthier than traditional spaghetti Bolognese. The sauce is also a great foundation for plant-based lasagna, stuffed pasta shells, or stuffed peppers. Incorporate it in your favorite Italian recipes to introduce more plant foods into your weekly meal rotation.
Lentils and Squash = Two Foods Worth Eating Every Day
This meal features two nutritional powerhouses that are worth including in your diet every day – lentils and squash. Lentils are easier to cook than most beans and they’re one of the best plant-based sources of protein. They’re a good source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which supports digestive and cardiovascular health. They’re also available in a selection of varietals and flavors. Brown lentils, French green lentils, and red lentils are typically the easiest to find in grocery stores and all will work in this recipe.
Spaghetti squash, one of the most accessible kinds of squash to eat due to its similarity to pasta, is full of folate and potassium, both of which improve new cell formation and muscle and nerve function. Compared to traditional pasta, spaghetti squash is remarkably low in calories, high in fiber, and rich in vital nutrients and minerals. Eat it in lieu of pasta to reduce inflammation in the body and increase your vegetable consumption.
Roasted Vegetable Lentil Bolognese with Spaghetti Squash (Makes 2 servings (with leftover Bolognese))
1 small spaghetti squash, sliced in half widthwise and deseeded
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and diced
½ onion, minced
2 stalks of celery, minced
¾ cup green lentils, picked over and rinsed
24 ounces tomato sauce
1-quart vegetable broth
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup leftover roasted vegetables, diced (I used golden beets, green beans, and Brussels sprouts)
- Preheat oven to 400º F and line a baking sheet with foil. Spray the foil with baking spray. Place the spaghetti squash cut side down on the pan and roast until squash can easily be pierced with a knife – approximately 40 minutes.
- While the squash is baking, make the Bolognese. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add carrots, onion, and celery. Sauté for 10 minutes, or until onion is translucent and mixture is just beginning to brown.
- Add lentils, tomato sauce, two cups of vegetable broth, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, and roasted vegetables to pan. Bring to just simmering, then reduce heat to low and cook uncovered for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, add the remaining vegetable broth and cook until lentils are tender. The time will vary depending on the age of the lentils. The longer and slower the sauce cooks, the better it gets!
- Once the lentils are soft and the spaghetti squash is roasted, scrape the spaghetti squash out onto two plates and top each portion with a generous scoop of Bolognese. Eat immediately. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week (the Bolognese freezes well too – store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to two months and reheat on the stovetop, adding more vegetable broth or water as necessary).
- Use your favorite bean in lieu of the lentils if you prefer.
- If you don’t have any leftover roasted vegetables, simply roast some alongside the spaghetti squash and stir them into the sauce once they’re done. Or use frozen veggies if you’re strapped for time.
- Top spaghetti with Parmesan cheese, vegan Parmesan cheese, fresh basil, or fresh chunks of mozzarella cheese.
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