Umami-rich, vegetarian lentil bolognese served over polenta cakes or your favorite pasta is a filling and flavorful dinner meal.

Vegetarian Lentil Bolognese over Polenta Cakes

Vegetarian lentil bolognese served over polenta cakes and sprinkled with grated Parmesan is a filling, flavorful, and low-calorie meal.
Course Entree
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Italian, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword bolognese, gluten-free, lentils, pasta sauce, vegan, vegetarian
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 5
Calories 203 kcal
Author Jessica Levinson


For the Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 cups sliced baby bella (crimini) mushrooms (~8 ounces)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 26-28 ounces canned or boxed crushed/finely chopped tomatoes (preferably no-salt added)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups baby spinach (~1 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup cooked lentils*

For the Polenta Cakes:

  • Cooking spray or oil
  • 1 package pre-cooked polenta, cut into 10 slices

For Serving (optional):

  • Grated Parmesan, for serving (or Nutritional yeast for vegan)


For the Sauce:

  1. Heat oil in a medium-large pot over medium high.
  2. Add onions and sauté, stirring occasionally until translucent and starting to soften, 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic and stir 30 seconds to 1 minute until fragrant. Add mushrooms and stir occasionally until water from the mushrooms has released and begins to evaporate, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add rosemary, thyme, oregano, and tomato paste to mushroom onion mixture and stir to combine for 30 seconds. Add balsamic vinegar and stir, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pot.
  4. Add crushed/finely chopped tomatoes, water, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Lower heat to low and simmer 20 minutes.
  5. Stir in baby spinach and lentils, cover, and simmer 10 minutes more.

For the Polenta Cakes:

  1. Set oven to broil at level 1 (about 500 degrees). Line a baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.

  2. Spread polenta slices on prepared baking sheet and coat tops with cooking spray or drizzle with oil. Broil for 5 to 7 minutes, flip and broil another 5 minutes until starting to brown on outside.

  3. Serve polenta cakes with vegetarian bolognese on top and sprinkle with Parmesan (or nutritional yeast, if vegan). 

Recipe Notes

The longer you simmer the sauce, the deeper and richer the flavor becomes.

*You can use freshly prepared lentils, canned lentils, or packaged steamed lentils, which can be found in the produce aisle of some supermarkets.