This Vegetarian Bolognese recipe is just about as easy as it gets. I call it my “lazy vegan bolognese” because I use a jar of prepared marinara sauce to make it on busy weeknights, when I need to get dinner on the table fast!
Using red lentils in this recipe adds an excellent source of plant-based protein to each serving, while also keeping this whole meal as fast as possible. (Red lentils cook faster than other lentil varieties.)
I throw this meal together in our Instant Pot at least once a week. It’s kid-friendly (my 1-year-old loves it!) and takes practically no time to prepare. Simply dump the three ingredients into the pot, press a button, and walk away until it’s ready.
(If you don’t have an Instant Pot, scroll down to the bottom of this post for stove top directions.)
When you serve this sauce over spiralized zucchini noodles, you don’t even have to cook the pasta. I find that they wilt just enough to be tender, without becoming watery, when you add the piping hot sauce over the top.
If you prefer a slightly more tender pasta, you can quickly sauté the zucchini noodles over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, or serve this sauce over your favorite high-quality pasta instead.
I hope you’ll enjoy it the next time you need a quick meal!
Instant Vegetarian Bolognese
- 1 (25 ounce) jar marinara sauce (no sugar added)
- 3/4 cup red lentils
- 1/2 cup water
- salt & pepper , to taste
- Spiralized zucchini "noodles" or cooked pasta, for serving
- Combine the marinara sauce, lentils, and water in the bowl of your electric pressure cooker and stir well.
- Secure the lid and turn the vent to "seal." Using the manual button, adjust the machine to cook on high pressure for 5 minutes.
- Allow the pressure to release naturally for 10 minutes, then carefully turn the vent at the top to release the rest of the pressure. (It's okay if you let the pressure naturally release all the way, too.) Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Serve warm, over spiralized zucchini noodles or your favorite pasta.
- Leftover sauce can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days. For best texture, I recommend storing leftover zucchini noodles separately, so they don't get watery when reheated.
Per Serving: Calories: 119, Carbohydrates: 20g, Fiber: 10g, Protein: 8g
Stove Top Directions:
If you don’t have an Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker, simply combine the ingredients in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat and cover until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes. Adjust any seasoning to taste, then serve warm over your favorite pasta.
- Be sure to read the label of your store-bought marinara sauce. My favorite is the Fat-Free Organic Marinara Sauce from Whole Foods’ 365 Brand, but this jar from Muir Glen also has no added sugar and looks like a good option. If you’d prefer to make your own sauce from scratch, try the recipe in my first cookbook, Everyday Detox.
- If you need to avoid nightshades, try this tomato-less marinara sauce recipe instead.
- If you substitute another type of lentil, you might have to add more cooking time to this recipe. SaveSave
- Feel free to dress up this recipe however you see fit! Sometimes I’ll add some extra veggies into the mix, like shredded carrots or cauliflower rice, and I like to season with a touch of salt and pepper at the end to make the flavors pop. For some spice, you might want to add a pinch of red pepper flakes, too.
As always, if you modify this recipe please leave a comment below letting us know what worked for you so we can all benefit from your experience.
Reader Feedback: What’s your go-to weeknight dinner? Any more Instant Pot recipe requests?
Questions and Reviews
You are always an inspiration! I’m trying to incorporate more legumes into my meal planning. But I always hear that since legumes contain high levels of phytic acid and lectins they are supposedly harmful for our bodies. What is your intake on that?
I know, it’s confusing! I’ve also heard that the populations that live longest eat legumes everyday… but there could be so many variables that play into that. Here’s a positive look at lectins from Dr. Gregor: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/are-lectins-in-food-good-or-bad-for-you/
Good to know! I don’t want to give up my chickpeas+rice stir fry with cilantro tahini sauce, or my sautéed collard greens with butter beans and pesto sauce! Beans and lentils are so versatile.
This is crazy good! Quick easy and delicious!
I highly recommend Brazilian cheeseballs.
They are made with tapioca flour .
Many recipes available.
They are to die for.
I diced and sautéed half an onion first and then added the sauce, lentils and about half the water. It was so delicious that I ate a bowl of it on its own. Definitely will have this again and will try other variations.
What a wonderful recipe!!! Simple yet delicious. Can you soak the lentils and how much would it cut down on the cooking time?
This was delicious. Thank you for doing all the hard work for me!
I just bought my instant pot and am new to using it. I cooked on high this time but it burned on the bottom. (Still good though) any advice?
Wow – I just made this, and wow! Megan, I have yet to try one of your recipes that is not good or even okay. Every recipe that I’ve tried (and I’ve tried several) have been delicious! I am completely convinced that I need to own your cookbooks. Do you ever run any kind of special to purchase them all – books & ebooks? Thank you so much for providing simply, healthy meals.
Aw, thanks Angie! I don’t sell my own printed cookbooks at all, so I’m not able to run a special on those– though Amazon typically has them discounted off their retail price on a daily basis. I haven’t considered running a special on the e-books, but I’ll think about that for the new year…
Amazing recipe! Have made it three times already! I had about one cup of left over sauce so I puréed it and used it as a dip with veg and spread it on toasted baguette slices and used it in a lettuce wrap. YUM!!!
One of the times I made it I also added half a red pepper and half of a zucchini both shredded (I didn’t want to throw the pieces out)…still yum!
Thank you for creating this.
I made this for my husband and me and it was great! We sautéd some onions and used Whole Foods fat free marinara and some of Rao’s traditional marinara. Will definitely make again!
Is this about combining foods properly concerning alkaline diet for proper digestion? Because I just read on another site that you cannot combine acids with starches because they ferment in stomach. Sadly that includes tomatoes and pasta which I see you do allow in your recipes. Again, maybe that is not what this site is about but just thought I would point it out
You can get quite complicated with food combining if you want to, and there are even some contradicting ideas about it out there. However, I prefer to keep the rules I follow pretty simple. If you overwhelm someone with too many rules all at once, they may not try it at all, and that’s definitely not my goal with this website. I hope that sharing easy and delicious recipes will help someone take a step in the right direction (eating whole foods instead of processed ones) and then if they want to look into food combining more when the need calls for it, they can! 🙂
Can this recipe be made on the stove top? Unsure how long to cook and how much water to do if so!
Really disappointed I followed this recipe to a T and got burn notice in my instant Pot and now I’m trying to scrub burnt lentils off the bottom 🙁
Same thing happened with my instant pot 🙁
Is it OK to use French lentils which are green in place of the red lentils? For this dish as well as the vegan enchilada caserole?
If adding vegetables, can they be added directly with the lentils in the instant pot while cooking?
Thanks for the recipe 🙂 I cooked it as directed, and added shredded carrot, onion, celery, and zucchini. However, the lentils didn’t seem cooked. I added more water and cooked on high for 5 minutes, but they still weren’t cooked… they’re in for another 8 minutes. Any idea about why it would be taking so long? I am using red lentils, and regular marinara sauce.
Tried this for the first time tonight but got the dreaded burn notice. Rescued the sauce that wasn’t burnt to the bottom of the pot and I will finish cooking on the stovetop. I wonder if my sauce was too thick and needed more than 1/2 cup water.
I tried it twice following the recipe to the T and got the burn signal each time!
Mine did the exact same. Really burned on bottom, saved some via stovetop,
What is considered 1 serving? This sauce is soooooo delicious I can’t believe it! That’s why I’m curious what one serving is because I’m eating about 1.5 cups at one portion.
This recipe looked so good and simple but, like others I got the burn notice twice before giving up and going with j stove top. While it could have been the tomato sauce, it was my Lentils that were horribly burned and stuck to the bottom. I wonder if putting water, then sauce and then Lentils without stirring would work?
Recipe was good, and just the right amount of easy that I was looking for! But did you mean lentils need to cook in the instant pot for 15 minutes, not 5? After 5 minutes, with a 15 min NPR, the lentils were hard and crunchy and the sauce was starting to burn on the bottom. I put in 1/2 cup more water and did another 8 minutes manual with NPR. Still no bueno in my opinion, but my 9 year old was happy (she was also starving). Added MORE water, and did another 10 minutes in the IP on manual. I think this was more to my liking, but still a lot of burning on the bottom of the IP. Smelled wonderful though! I will give this another go with more water and more time on manual. Thanks for all of your wonderful recipes!
Wow, I’ve never made a bad recipe from your site but this one just doesn’t work! It seems others had the same problem…I got the burn alarm a couple times so I thought maybe I hadn’t stirred the lentils enough…stirred and started over. Again the burn alarm! Stopped it and stirred again and the bottom was BURNT.
I didn’t want to waste my precious Rao’s marinara so I doubled the water and restarted on low pressure for the same period of time…burn alarm burn alarm burn alarm! It thankfully ended up being ok (by avoiding scraping the burnt bottom) but something is off about this recipe!
The dish was really tasty, but only after I scraped out the non-burnt portion in the instant pot. Unless my marinara was too thick, this does not work out well for the pressure cooker.
How much is a serving? Is it 1 cup or 2 cups????
I made this as posted except gluten free pasta i had to cook an aditional 10 minutes as my lentils were the green ones other than that i like the way it turned out ! My only thing i would like to add is how would i make it more ( saucey ) ? It was kind of dry ? Thank you ! Dw
Oh mine burnt a lil bit too i did have olive oil in the pan too
Made this with green lentils instead of red and had to cook for significantly longer than the stovetop recipe. I was warned I would need to, so just confirming lol. Very easy and tasty, great for a weeknight dinner after a long day at work. Next time I think I’ll try adding chopped veggies for more dimension, but overall a hit as is. Thank you for another delicious recipe!
5 minutes didnt work for me more about 15 minutes to cook the lentils just saying thank you . Dw
Really wanted to like this, but got the burn notice as well (twice) until I finally gave up and transferred it to the stovetop. Any advice for avoiding the burn notice on this recipe?
Burn notice on my Instant pot. Ruined my dinner and wasted all that food.
Based on other comments I added 3/4 cup of water and the lentils. Then I dumped the sauce on top without stirring (since tomatoes tend to burn in the instant pot).
Then I cooked as directed. When I opened the pot there was the tiniest bit of burn starting in one corner. But otherwise it was great. I’ll add a full cup of water next time but the flavor was great, and couldn’t have been easier!
I found sauteeof zucchini noodle much better in textures and taste I used japaleno pepper very effective for spice or a drop or 2 of sriracha sauce
I followed this recipe exactly and it completely burnt. I had to throw the whole thing out – total waste of food