I am a big fan of lentils and wanted to incorporate them in a pasta sauce. The French lentils work well in this sauce as they are not too mushy and provide an excellent source of protein. If you want to make this recipe vegetarian, eliminate the bacon and use olive oil. I think the bacon adds great flavor, but it’s not essential. Serve this with a nice green salad and some delicious bread!

A lighter version of the classic bolognese sauce

Yield 4-6 servings


  • 1 lb favorite short pasta (rigatoni, penne)
  • 1 cup French lentils
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, rough chop
  • 2 medium leeks, white and pale green portion, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, diced
  • 1 pint cherry or San Mariano tomatoes, chopped, plus 1 cup more of extra tomato for garnish
  • 1 large roasted pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 -1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 bunch chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 3 -4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Grated parmesan for serving
  • Kosher salt and pepper


Begin by preparing the lentils by boiling them in salted water for about 20 minutes until tender. Drain and place in a bowl with the sherry vinegar and olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper. Set aside. Heat a large saucepan with 1 tablespoon of reserved bacon fat (if using) and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add leeks and fennel to the pan and sauté on medium-low for 10 minutes or so, seasoning with salt and pepper, stirring frequently until tender. Raise heat to medium-high, add tomatoes, garlic and wine until evaporated then add stock and cover to simmer on low wile you prepare pasta. Prepare pasta to al dente according to package directions. Reserve about1/2 cup of pasta cooking liquid. Add prepared lentils and red pepper to leek mixture and remove from heat. Mix drained pasta with lentil bolognese and toss to combine using extra cooking liquid if needed. Toss in the bacon and chopped parsley and serve with grated parmesan and 1 cup of diced fresh tomato and enjoy!