Lentil ragu

Lentil ragu

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(122 ratings)

Prep: 15 mins Cook: 1 hr, 15 mins


Serves 6

Struggle to get your five-a-day? This superhealthy ragu will get you four steps closer and can be frozen for extra convenience

Nutrition and extra info

  • Freezable
  • Healthy
  • Vegetarian

Nutrition: per serving

  • kcal662
  • fat9g
  • saturates1g
  • carbs120g
  • sugars14g
  • fibre10g
  • protein33g
  • salt1.05g
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  • 3 tbsp olive oil
    olive oil

    Olive oil

    ol-iv oyl

    Probably the most widely-used oil in cooking, olive oil is pressed from fresh olives. It's…

  • 2 onions, finely chopped



    Onions are endlessly versatile and an essential ingredient in countless recipes. Native to Asia…

  • 3 carrots, finely chopped



    The carrot, with its distinctive bright orange colour, is one of the most versatile root…

  • 3 celery sticks, finely chopped



    A collection of long, thick, juicy stalks around a central, tender heart, celery ranges in…

  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 500g bag dried red lentils
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes



    A member of the nightshade family (along with aubergines, peppers and chillies), tomatoes are in…

  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tsp each dried oregano and thyme



    Closely related to marjoram, of which it is the wild equivalent, oregano has a coarser, more…

  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1l vegetable stock
  • 500g spaghetti
  • parmesan or vegetarian cheese, grated, to serve



    Parmesan is a straw-coloured hard cheese with a natural yellow rind and rich, fruity flavour. It…


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic. Cook gently for 15-20 mins until everything is softened. Stir in the lentils, chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, herbs and stock. Bring to a simmer, then cook for 40-50 mins until the lentils are tender and saucy – splash in water if you need. Season.

  2. If eating straight away, keep on a low heat while you cook the spaghetti, following pack instructions. Drain well, divide between pasta bowls or plates, spoon sauce over the top and grate over some cheese. Alternatively, cool the sauce and chill for up to 3 days. Or freeze for up to 3 months. Simply defrost portions overnight at room temperature, then reheat gently to serve.

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Comments, questions and tips

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2nd Nov, 2017
I have been making this for years now. It's a great, affordable staple which can be served in many ways such as with quinoa, pasta, polenta, as a lasagne filling or packed into a squash with cheese on top. Myself and my partner love it
14th Aug, 2017
Good tasty recipe I took note of the other reviews halved the lentils but still needed the same amount of stock. Kept having to top up to prevent sticking and drying out think this was because I cooked in a large frying pan instead of a saucepan. I used yellow pepper instead of celery. Added lentils them vermouth allowed the lentils to soak this up before adding tomatoes herbs and stock. Added ginger white pepper chilli flakes and honey. Plenty left intend to use to make cannelloni by filling in wraps adding grated cheese on top and baking in oven this recipe is making 2 meals can't fault it!
3rd Aug, 2017
Better with the aforementioned tweaks - made half the quantity and still loads! Added smoked paprika, worcester sauce, soy sauce. Really filling and comforting. Great freezer-stocker-upper and so cheap and healthy.
6th Jul, 2017
Absolutely love making this dish. Have been making it for years, was a great one for my uni days especially as a way to eat healthier plus it makes loads which when you're a broke student is always beneficial. Started making it at home too as a way of incorporating different healthy meals. My step-dad loves it and he is by far no veggie. I don't tend to change the recipe as it works as is, however may try a few of the tweaks next time :)
17th May, 2017
Delish. Followed advice in comments below, added wine, smoked paprika, chicken stock, Worcester. It was very good.
16th May, 2017
Definitely benefits from a good slosh of wine. I prefer to use chicken or beef stock, but veg is ok too. Good as a filling for stuffed peppers or to top a jacket potato.
9th May, 2017
This is a fantastic recipe. I instituted Meatless Mondays in our household a little while ago, and for once my sons didn't complain about dinner being vegetarian. High praise indeed! Apart from the great taste, the lentil rage actually looks like a meat ragu. Guided by previous comments, I made the following tweaks to the recipe: 1. Like previous commentators, I halved the quantities (and still had enough for 10 servings), and added red wine. 2. Given the comments about the odd texture when paired with pasta, I used zucchini spirals instead of pasta one night, and konjac noodles the next time. I think the konjac noodles worked better. 3. Instead of adding Worcestershire or soy sauce like other commentators, I soaked 15g dried porcini mushrooms in hot water, drained them (reserving the liquid), and then pulsed the porcini mushrooms with 200g fresh mushrooms and added this to the vegetable mix. I added the porcini liquid to the stock. This gave the recipe a good hit of umami. 4. I substituted two tablespoons of mixed herbs for the oregano/thyme/bay leaves. 5. I used chicken bone broth instead of vegetable stock. I found that the flavours intensified overnight and tasted better the next day. I love this recipe. It's definitely going to become a regular on my meal rotation plan.
13th Jan, 2017
Made this with butter beans instead of lentils (we didn't have any) - and it worked well! Can recommend a healthy dose of parmesan on top.
11th Nov, 2016
Lovely. Mild and light but still hearty. The lentils break down to thicken the sauce, so it coats the pasta.
26th Aug, 2016
I used the full quantity of ingredients and wow - it's made loads! A super cheap, and healthy meal. I took the advice of other's and added 200ml red wine, and 1 tbsp of soy sauce, and it resulted in a real depth of flavour, close enough to match the meat version. I think next time I would halve the ingredients, and perhaps omit the celery for some chopped courgette.


22nd May, 2017
I currently have this cooking in my slow cooker with 1L of stock in and are looking to have it in for 8hrs? What kind of consistency should the lentils have as I tried them half way through cooking and that still appeared to be pretty solid?
goodfoodteam's picture
23rd May, 2017
Thanks for your question. The lentils should be tender by the finished dish. If you're halfway through the cooking time on an 8-hour setting, we'd guess that all will be fine. Remember with a slow cooker not to keep taking off the lid as this can really increase the amount of cooking time needed.
28th Apr, 2017
662 calories per portion seems way off? Should me much lower.
goodfoodteam's picture
5th May, 2017
Thanks for pointing this out. The figure includes the spaghetti which was previously listed as a 'to serve' item and therefore didn't appear to be included in the nutritional figures. We've amended the recipe now. Apologies for the confusion.
Cordelia Fox
5th Sep, 2016
Hi I only have split red lentils, can I use them instead? Thanks
goodfoodteam's picture
5th May, 2017
Thanks for your question. Yes, these are the ones to use.
15th Feb, 2014
Can this be cooked in a slow cooker?
goodfoodteam's picture
21st Feb, 2014
Hi there, thanks for getting in touch. Yes, this recipe would work well in a slow cooker. Cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Best wishes, BBC Good Food team
10th Jan, 2018
the quantities make A LOT of food, so think if you want that much, as a student cooking for myself, less than half (200g of lentils etc) made 4 large meals. Also, it's even nicer the day after!
28th Jul, 2016
I made this last night for my family and boyfriend (first time cooking with lentils). Unfortunately, it wasn't for any of us. It was very earthy tasting, we added grated cheese on top to add some flavour. The thyme and oregano helped but I would have put more in personally had I have known. Sorry :( Glad we tried it though.
22nd Aug, 2014
Made this but didn't have carrots so added roasted herby mushrooms in at the end. Delicious. http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1039647/roasted-herby-mushrooms
11th Jan, 2014
Done this ragu a couple of times now & once made a lasagne with the ragu as have a few vegetarians in the family. I also add fennel seeds to the mix when sweating down my onions, carrot & celery, adds a nice flavour to it. I find serving with steamed veg in place of pasta is lighter meal as I find lentils really filling.