This time of year I start craving hearty and satisfying entrees that warm me up. I love comforting pasta dishes and I love them even more when they are loaded with plant-based protein and vegetables. This recipe sneaks in so many veggies (carrots, zucchini, red bell pepper, onions, tomatoes and mushrooms) but you barely notice them because most are finely diced.
It seems like a lot of vegetables at first but they soften, cook down and eventually blend into the sauce.
There is not a drop of dairy in this dish and I promise you that with all that is going on with this spicy red sauce, you will not miss it in the least. This dish is already bursting with so much flavor.
I love red lentils for so many reasons and in this dish I love how they basically disappear into the spicy red sauce making it creamy and thick. Red lentils add a natural nutty and sweet flavor and best of all they add protein and fiber to the meal. Lentils are an inexpensive and healthful protein source; one serving (a quarter-cup raw) provides 13 grams of protein and is free of saturated fat and cholesterol. Plus, unlike meat, lentils are high in dietary fiber, which aids in digestion. They’re also a plant-based source of iron and a good source of potassium and folate.
For the pasta, I used my all-time favorite gluten-free pasta: Trader Joe’s organic brown rice & quinoa fusilli pasta (but any pasta will do). This sauce also works great on top of roasted spaghetti squash. I hope you enjoy this gluten-free, hearty plant-based meal as much as my family does.
For those of you following eatingbyelaine on snapchat, you may have seen me make this recipe before. It is one of our favorites and I make it frequently this time of year. If you give it a try please rate it, comment below or tag me in a pic on social media so I can see! (#eatingbyelaine / @eatingbyelaine)Print
An easy, spicy (yet slightly sweet) red pasta sauce loaded with veggies and with red lentils for added protein and fiber. Serve this flavorful sauce over gluten free pasta for a healthy, fast and satisfying plant-based meal!
For the red lentil veggie sauce
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 large cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced (or pressed through a garlic press)
- 1 cup baby carrots, finely diced (1 1/4 cup when finely diced)
- 1 large red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, finely diced (1 cup when finely diced)
- 1 large zucchini, ends removed, finely diced (1 3/4 cups when finely diced)
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
- optional: 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (for added spicy flavor)
- 28 ounces marinara sauce (I love Rao’s)
- 1 cup filtered water
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- Garnish: 1/4 cup fresh basil, diced (or sub parsley)
For the pasta
- 16 ounces gluten-free pasta (short-cut) [or sub zucchini noodles]
For the red lentil veggie sauce:
- Heat a 5.5 quart dutch oven over medium heat. Once hot, add olive oil, red onion, salt and pepper and saute for 8 minutes until onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic and stir frequently for another 2 minutes. Add carrots, red bell pepper and zucchini and saute for 5 minutes stirring frequently.
- Add the tomato paste, maple syrup, crushed red pepper flakes and stir well to fully coat the veggies.
- Add marinara sauce, water and red lentils. Stir well and bring to a boil. Then turn the burner to a low simmer. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes stirring occasionally until veggies are fork tender and lentils are cooked through. While you are waiting start the pasta (see below).
For the pasta:
- Cook the pasta according to package instructions. For best results salt your pasta water with 1/2 tablespoon salt. When pasta is finished cooking, drain and set aside for serving.
- Once the red lentils and veggies are fully cooked, stir the fresh basil into the red lentil veggie sauce and taste. Adjust seasonings as needed.
- To serve, spoon the red lentil veggie sauce over the cooked pasta. Serve with any additional toppings, such as red pepper flakes, vegan Parmesan cheese, and/or fresh basil. Enjoy immediately while hot. Store leftovers once fully cooled in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.
Gluten-free pasta is best when fresh but the sauce can be made ahead of time if desired and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to five days. Reheat sauce in the microwave or saucepan. Add a little marinara pasta sauce to thin if too thick or dry.
- Category: Entree
- Cuisine: Italian
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