a life-changing ragu


there are a number of meaty dishes which i love eating so much that i’d struggle to be a vegetarian, simply because i’d miss them too much. one such dish is a good ragu, either for spaghetti bolognaise or a classic lasagne.

however, i have discovered a vegetarian alternative which is absolutely packed with flavour and has the tomatoey earthy richness that i demand from a ragu.

this puy lentil and mushroom ragu was inspired by two recipes – luissa’s fettucine with mushroom ragu and francesca’s puy lentil lasagne. i made the ragu this morning with the intention of turning it into a lasagne to feed to my friend julia tonight. but i couldn’t wait that long to try it, so my first sampling was with spaghetti for lunch and it was good. damn good.

so, the question is, do i turn some of the remaining ragu into a lasagne and share it with julia, or do i keep it all to myself? i can probably divert david from having any by telling him it’s “just lentils.” i’m not often selfish with food but i do feel that i need to spend a bit more time with this ragu before i share it…

the terrible thing is that there is over 1.5kg of the stuff sitting in the kitchen, so it’s not as though i’d miss out by showing a little generosity. so i shall be generous – i will share it with ruth at once upon a feast and it can be my contribution to presto pasta nights.

update: this freezes well, either on its own or as part of an assembled lasagne.

puy lentil and mushroom ragu (serves 8-10)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 onions, finely chopped

300g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

250g puy lentils

150ml red wine

1 tablespoon tomato puree

800g tin of chopped tomatoes

1 litre vegetable stock (i make mine with marigold bouillon powder)

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt & pepper

2 tablespoons chopped basil

heat the olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the carrot and onion until they begin to soften. add the mushrooms and garlic, cooking until the mushrooms are cooked through and starting to release their liquid.

add the puy lentils, red wine and tomato puree. stir well and let it simmer for a few minutes. add the tinned tomatoes, stock and herbs and simmer for 25-35 minutes, until the lentils are cooked and your ragu is nice and thick (you may need to add extra stock/ boil away any excess depending how long it takes the lentils to soften). season to taste and add the fresh basil.

you can use this as a sauce with pasta (i used spaghetti) or to layer up a lasagne. if you try it, please let me know what you think.