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In the Kitchen With Ricky: Hearty lentil and walnut Bolognese for World Vegetarian Day

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 29, 2021

By Ricky Webster For The Spokesman-Review

Oct. 1 is World Vegetarian Day, so this week I am bringing you a recipe that is hearty, warming, easy and just in time so you can celebrate.

This recipe is a great introduction to the use of lentils and walnuts as a replacement for meat. I am not a vegetarian, but I’m always trying to incorporate more plant-based meals into my diet.

There are plenty of other vegetarian and vegan recipes that use this legume and nut combo. Some of my favorites include chorizo, sprouted lentil and walnut “burgers” and taco “meat.”

This recipe combines all the classic flavors of Bolognese and is sure to satisfy your craving for a hearty pasta meal in a little lighter way. The recipe is actually vegan, but I choose to serve it with Parmesan cheese, thus making it vegetarian.

I like to partially blend the lentil sauce when it’s finished cooking to add a creaminess and fuller mouthfeel, but if you want to skip this step, it’ll still be delicious.

Serve it with your favorite pasta, or try it in a lasagna.

Lentil and Walnut Bolognese

⅔ cup dried lentils

¼ cup olive oil

⅔ cup walnuts, chopped

¾ cup carrots, grated

½ cup celery, minced

1 small onion, finely diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon celery salt

1 teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon white pepper

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

⅔ cup red wine (or, add an additional cup of water or vegetable stock)

1 15-ounce can tomato puree/sauce

2 cups vegetable stock

3 tablespoons balsamic or red wine vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons cane sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Parmesan cheese (optional)

Using a mesh strainer, rinse the lentils and set aside.

Place oil in a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the chopped walnuts and stir for a couple minutes or until fragrant and nuts are toasted.

Add the carrots, celery and onion; cook until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add in garlic, and all herbs and spices, stirring until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the wine to deglaze the bottom of the pot, then add in the rinsed lentils, stock, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil.

Turn down to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about an hour.

Taste and adjust the seasoning. Once the lentils reach desired doneness and thickness of sauce is achieved, you are ready to serve it.

I like it a bit creamier, so I blend the sauce. Do this quickly with an immersion blender or remove 1 to 2 cups and blend it in a traditional blender. Return the sauce back to the pot and stir until combined.

Toss with cooked pasta and serve with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Yield: Makes enough to cover 1 to 2 pounds of cooked pasta.

Local award-winning chef and Rind and Wheat owner Ricky Webster can be reached at ricky@rindandwheat.com. Follow Webster on Instagram @rickycaker.

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