Lentil ragu

Lentil ragu

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(229 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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Clare Johnson's picture
Clare Johnson
12th May, 2020
Be warned. This makes a huge amount! I halved the quantities and have enough for 6 so I’ll freeze half. It is rather bland, as has been noted, but can be spiced up.
3rd May, 2020
Made this in lockdown to use up some lentils, was quite disappointed by how bland it was, think it would have been better if I had cheese to put on top!
maggiebleksley's picture
1st Jul, 2020
If you didn't put cheese on top, like it said, you can't blame the recipe if it was bland. :)
helen1aspen's picture
28th Apr, 2020
My 12 year old daughter made this for our tea last night and it was delicious. As comments suggested used 300g of red lentils, same amount of liquid and added a good glug of balsamic vinegar, worcestershire sauce and tomato ketchup (as we do in meat ragu). Definitely making this again. Made 5 generous portions with 300g of lentils.
17th Apr, 2020
Well, in lockdown so this was great to use whatever I could find! It did make a lot so I turned it into lasagne - even though I only had almond milk it is still great!
6th Apr, 2020
Parmesan OR vegetarian cheese? Parmesan IS vegetarian cheese. All cheese is vegetarian. I will use nooch (nutritious yeast) and some cashew nuts as my preferred cheez. I will add stock or stock cubes and probably more garlic to give it more flavour. This is definitely my sort of recipe and it is easy to play around with according to what's in season or in the fridge.
20th Apr, 2020
Parmesan contains rennet which is cows stomach.
6th Apr, 2020
Parmesan is made with animal rennet
Rose Gray
20th Feb, 2020
I didn’t have fresh celery/ carrots so used 2 small onions, garlic oil and olive oil and some frozen soffritto mix with half a red pepper and 3 large chestnut mushrooms. My top tip is to add red wine which will give a richer flavour and I accidentally put in 4 spoons of thyme so then added another few spoonfuls of mixed herbs, and my passata (in place of one of the tomato tins) had basil mixed in already. I’m batch cooking for freezer meals (baby on the way!) so didn’t reduce the amount of lentils. I feel like this would easily serve 8, probably more if you prefer it stirred in as a lighter addition to spaghetti. I split this into 4 containers for the freezer but sneaked a few spoonfuls and cannot wait to tuck in! Add whatever veg you want to this, I feel like the recipe can easily be played with! If you’re a meat eater get some bacon/ pancetta or beef stock added for more depth!
southlundon's picture
9th Feb, 2020
The whole family loved this dish, although I didn’t realise how much it was going to make, I’m glad I have got another 4/5 portions to freeze for another time. I didn’t find it too bland at all and in fact I was surprised how much flavour was packed in. I made it to recipe, although I didn’t have bay leaves so added 2 tsp of mixed herbs, it only needed 30 mins cooking once the lentils and liquid etc were added. Definitely recommended!


26th Feb, 2018
How do you cook in a slow cooker ?
goodfoodteam's picture
28th Feb, 2018
Thanks for your question. We haven't tested this recipe in the slow cooker so cannot give exact instructions. However you could transfer this to the slow cooker once all ingredients are added and cook for around 2 - 3 hours on High or 5 - 7 on Low. We'd suggest checking it the first time after the minimum cooking time.
5th Feb, 2018
Why do you suggest this can only be frozen for 3 months.
goodfoodteam's picture
6th Feb, 2018
Thanks for your question. If food is frozen for too long it oven gets 'freezer burn' where the texture and flavour deteriorate.
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.


Rose Gray
20th Feb, 2020
Red wine!
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.
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