lentil marinara

lentil marinara 5

When my coworker came back to work after spending weeks in the hospital (and in my small town, that means a hospital over two hours away from home) with his sick newborn baby, I figured they could use a home-cooked meal. I thought tomato soup, homemade bread, and some nice cheese to make grilled sandwiches would be the perfect comfort food. Unfortunately, it would require a trip to the store and a couple free hours to cook, and when I saw how exhausted my friend was, I figured getting something to him soon was more important than getting the perfect meal to him.

lentil marinara 1

So I made extras of what I was having for dinner that night. Spaghetti is warm and familiar, so fits the comfort food bill, and who doesn’t like the pasta and tomato sauce combination? The lentils, though, might seem strange to some people.

It makes perfect sense to me, because lentils are a great protein source, and while I can’t claim that they taste like beef, there is something meaty-like about them. Besides, what’s more comforting than knowing that your dinner is not only delicious, it’s healthy?

lentil marinara 2

And now I have another friend who needs comfort food after the death of her father on Thanksgiving day. Unfortunately, I can’t just bring her my leftovers, because she lives a thousand miles away. I don’t think virtual comfort food is quite the same, but at least she’ll know I’m thinking about her and her family and wishing them the best during a difficult time.

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One year ago: Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Pine Nuts
Two years ago: Thai-Style Chicken Soup
Three years ago: Pumpkin Ginger Muffins

Printer Friendly Recipe
Lentil Marinara (adapted from Branny Boils Over)

6-8 servings

I simmered this for 30-45 minutes, but, if you have the time, I suspect that a longer simmering time while covered would really help the lentils absorb the tomato flavor.

I like canned whole tomatoes for sauce because they break down better, but if you don’t mind larger tomato chunks in your sauce, diced tomatoes will work fine. I chop canned whole tomatoes by sticking kitchen shears into the can and snipping away.

Update 4/23/12 – I’ve made this a couple more times, and I’ve decided that it’s probably too heavy on the lentils.  Using up a whole bag at once is nice, but 8 ounces of lentils for 2 cans of tomatoes will make a tastier sauce.

2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon oregano
¼ cup white or red wine
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 (1-pound) bag brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil until it flows like water when the pan is tilted. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion just starts to brown around the edges, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. Add the wine, scraping any browned residue on the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes, until the lentils are tender and the sauce is thickened.

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  1. I make a similar recipe from Vegan Epicurean’s blog. Fennel and Lentil Tomato sauce. I love that it’s so healthy and so tasty!

  2. You’re an incredible friend/coworker. This looks and sounds amazing…
    Definitely a keeper!

  3. This is a great, comforting meal. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I love your first picture.

  4. So sweet of you Bridget. I know she appreciates all the love and thought that went into this.

  5. Bridget, thank you so much for this lovely post and comforting dish. I really appreciate the gesture and I wish I was able to try it in person. Since I can’t try yours, I’ll have to try it on my own, and I definitely will because it sounds wonderful.

  6. This sounds really good! I bought some lentils and have been trying to decide on a recipe for them and this sounds delicious! Thanks for sharing!

  7. I actually did try this recipe and while hearty, filling and healthy, I also found it bland. The wine that I used may not have had enough punch. I’m doing as you suggested and cooking it longer the day after and adding more spices. Regardless of the lack of *punch* this is a super easy recipe to have for a weeknight. Thanks for posting the recipe!

  8. bridget says:

    Elle – I doubt the problem was your wine, since there’s not much of it in the recipe. I wonder if just adding some more salt would make all the difference? I hope you manage to make the leftovers delicious in addition to hearty, filling, and healthy!

  9. This is the entrée I have been searching for – friends coming for supper who are vegan and gluten-free. All I need now is some gf pasta. Thanks!