To make the best ever vegan ragu:
- Make the soffritto by gently frying onion, celery, carrots and garlic in olive oil.
- Season with plenty of oregano, salt and black pepper.
- Deglaze the pan by adding a glug of red wine to the pan.
- Add washed green lentils to the pan, along with tinned tomatoes, stock and more boiling water.
- Cook slowly over a low flame for 40 minutes.
- Serve with pappardelle pasta, and top with torn basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Bon appetito!
- Lentils – This recipe uses green lentils. Ensure the lentils are thoroughly washed to get rid of any debris. Green lentils work best because they have a firmer texture, but you could use red lentils if that’s all you have. Red lentils tend to cook faster (around 20 minutes), so you would need to adjust the cooking time according to the instructions on the pack. Lentils are high in protein and low in fat, which makes them a healthy unprocessed alternative to meat. They are also incredibly filling due to their high fibre and protein content.
- Soffritto – The base of this dish is an aromatically mix of onion, celery and carrots, known as soffritto in Italian cooking. The soffritto is the base of most Italian soups and sauces. It is cooked very gently in olive oil until golden brown. To supercharge your ragu you can add in more vegetables after this stage, such as diced mushrooms and courgettes.
- Red wine – Red wine adds body and depth to the ragu. It also helps to deglaze the pan, which enhances the flavour of the ingredients. You can omit this step if you would prefer not to use red wine in your cooking. Grape juice makes a good non-alcoholic substitute for wine in cooking.
- Chopped tomatoes – Use good quality tinned chopped tomatoes in this recipe. Its such a simple sauce that the quality of the ingredients shines through. I like to use these Napolina chopped tomatoes.
- Pasta – I like to serve this ragu with pappardelle pasta. Pappardelle is a broad and flat type of pasta, much wider than spaghetti, which originated in Tuscany. The width of pappardelle makes it a great carrier for substantial sauces, so its perfect for this vegan ragu. You can learn more about pappardelle at Pasta Evangelists.
Tips for making this vegan ragu
- I like to season this vegan ragu with oregano. You can use any other Italian herbs you like, and you can also buy a pre made Italian herb mix (usually oregano, basil, rosemary and thyme).
- This vegan ragu is lovely with diced vegetables added in and sautéed with the soffritto. Mushrooms and courgettes work especially well. If you are cooking for children, this is an easy way to sneak more vegetables into their diet.
- Once cooked, I like to blitz some of the sauce (around a third) with a hand blender. This thickens the sauce, but you still want plenty of whole vegetable and lentil pieces in there for added texture.
- Ragu isn’t just great served with pasta. You can make a big batch of this ragu and then load it onto baked potatoes or top it on fresh crusty bread.
- This vegan ragu calls for green lentils. Ensure the lentils are thoroughly washed to get rid of any debris. Green lentils work best because they have a firmer texture, but you could use red lentils if that’s all you have. Red lentils tend to cook faster (around 20 minutes), so you would need to adjust the cooking time according to the instructions on the pack.
How to store vegan ragu
The ragu will keep refrigerated in an airtight container for up to two days.
Children love this ragu. I use a food cube tray to freeze small portions of the cooked ragu. I then just defrost and heat a portion when my son asks for pasta, which is pretty much every single day!
Of course you can do the same for yourself. Freeze a couple of portions in a ziplock bag for when you need a quick, healthy and filling dinner. Defrost and heat the ragu through, and stir through freshly cooked pasta.
Frequently asked questions
Ragu originates from the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. A Bolognese sauce (ragu alla Bolognese) is a variant of the ragu sauce, and originates from Emilia Romagna’s capital city of Bologna. A ragu uses red wine, whereas a bolognese typically contains white wine. A ragu also usually contains more tomatoes than a bolognese sauce. Both are made with meat, but both can easily be made plant based with the simple substitution of lentils!
Traditionally, a ragu is made with mince meat that is cooked slowly over a low heat. The meat of choice is traditionally beef, pork or game. However, as an increasing number of us look to incorporate more vegetables and pulses into our diet, a ragu made with lentils instead of meat, is an exceptionally delicious plant based alternative.
A traditional ragu is made with the soffritto base, which consists of onion, carrot and celery, along with mince and red wine. These key components are cooked very slowly over a low flame, giving the ragu its rich and robust flavour.