Sunday, 11 October 2015

Rich Red Lentil Ragu - A Tasty, Skinny, Lentil Bolognese Sauce

Make a change from meat with a truly tasty alternative to the traditional ragu sauce for spaghetti bolognese!

Dare I say it, this one is a dish to keep both the veggies and the meat-eaters happy! It's packed full of vegetables, with lentils for protein, and makes a great winter warmer. You can serve with pasta, or with vegetable 'spaghetti' for a lower calorie / carb meal, or even make it into a lasagne.

If you're not vegetarian, and not serving it to vegetarians there are a couple of optional ingredients in there to pack in the flavour you'd get from a traditional meat-based ragu (a little pancetta/bacon, because it goes so well with lentils, and some beef stock), and if you are vegetarian, skip the pancetta and use vegetable stock and an extra pinch of salt at the end if you think it needs it! I've added a couple of non-traditional ingredients to give it plenty of umami flavour, as well. For vegans, just check your vegetable stock cube doesn't contain dairy.

Serves 12 to 14 (or halve the ingredient quantities if you prefer), freezes and reheats beautifully. I gave approximately 300g as a portion - which is a generous amount (a couple of ladles) and gave me 14 portions (weights will depend on total liquid added).

217 calories per vegetarian portion, based on dividing into 14 equal portions; or 255 calories including pancetta/bacon and Worcestershire sauce - see Notes for making this a delicious low calorie meal for a fast day. [Calories in square brackets]

There are a few veggies in here, but luckily they can be quickly pulsed in a food processor, making short work of the preparation.

  • 4 cloves garlic [18]
  • 3 medium onions (300g) [123]
  • 4 carrots (300g) [78]
  • 2 bell peppers (red and green/yellow, or both red) [57]
  • 1 x 15ml tbsp oil [123]
  • 1 x 250g punnet chestnut or white mushrooms [40]
  • 100g pitted green or black olives (in brine, if calorie counting) [140]
  • 180g pancetta style or smoked streaky bacon (omit for meat free) [522]
  • 1 large glass red wine (250ml) [215]
  • 500g dried red lentils [1,590]
  • 3 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes [300]
  • 200g double concentrate tomato puree (e.g. 1 tube) [200]
  • 1 litre stock (beef or vegetable) plus extra hot water if needed [40]
  • 2 x 15ml tbsp dried oregano [30]
  • 2 heaped tsp smooth Dijon mustard (e.g. Maille, Grey Poupon) [45]
  • Pinch chilli flakes or cayenne pepper [1]
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (check gluten free if necessary) [34]
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (omit for vegetarian / gluten free) [17]
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste [2]

To serve
  • Freshly grated parmesan cheese (or vegetarian alternative), and pasta or vegetable 'spaghetti'.
Useful Equipment
  • A large pan, pot or wok (non-stick is good, something that can comfortably hold 4 litres)
  • A food processor to chop the vegetables quickly

1. Prepare the vegetables. You can actually dice them as fine or as chunky as you like, depending on how you want your ragu to turn out. Chop the garlic finely, and if you have a food processor, you can peel the onions and carrots, and chop them into large chunks along with the peppers and then pulse all together in the food processor until the desired consistency, then set aside. Do the same with the mushrooms and olives together, or slice them if you prefer. (Thermomix: Drop the garlic onto running blades speed 8, then turn off and add the onions, and peppers and chop 2 seconds / Speed 5 and check, then repeat with the carrots and set aside, then with the mushrooms and olives which you need to reserve in a seperate pile).

2. If using, cut the bacon/pancetta into thin slices then fry in the oil until just starting to turn a little golden and crispy, then carefully pour off and reserve all but about 1 tbsp fat.

3. Add onions, garlic, carrots and peppers to the pan, and continue to cook until they have softened slightly (around ten minutes or so - if you're not counting calories, add more oil if you need to - if you've got reserved oil from the pancetta, you can add this back anyway). Add mushrooms and olives and cook for a few more minutes, then add red wine and cook it off for a couple of minutes.

4. Add all of the rest of the ingredients to the pan (bar the extra hot water and salt), bring to a simmer then cover with a lid (or foil) and cook for around 20 to 25 minutes stirring once or twice to make sure the bottom doesn't stick until the lentils have absorbed most of the liquid and are tender but haven't broken down into mush. If necessary add extra hot water so your ragu is moist, but not sloppy.

5. Taste, and then add seasoning if/as necessary. Serve with a grating of parmesan (or veggie alternative) on top of pasta, or vegetable 'spaghetti'.

To keep the carbs and the calories down, serve this over courgette 'spaghetti'. Simply top and tail a medium-sized courgette for one person (around 180g), then either spiralize, or cut lengthwise into julienne using a mandolin, julienne peeler, or your knife skills! Don't overcook it, or you'll end up with something mushy and watery - just drop into boiling water and blanch briefly until heated through, or microwave in a bowl for a minute then check and repeat if necessary. Courgette is 18 calories per 100g, so 180g will be 32 calories - so you can have as much as you need if this isn't enough for you!

Parmesan cheese is 390 calories per 100g, so a mere 25g will set you back 97 calories. However, pop your plate on the scales, get out the microplane grater, and because it's so full of flavour a mere 10g should give you the cheesey hit you're after for just 39 calories if you grate it all over the top.

1 comment:

  1. Really tasty recipe, even my son who does not like lentils said he liked it!


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