Walnut and bean bolognese
This walnut and bean bolognese is an easy veggie version of spaghetti bolognese, made only with store cupboard ingredients!
A good spaghetti bolognese has got to be one of my favourite dinners – such a classic that never fails to make me feel warm and cosy. This walnut and bean bolognese is an easy vegetarian version that’s super satisfying and full of flavour.
Store cupboard recipe
Usually when I’m developing recipes for the blog, I’ll plan out a shopping list beforehand to make sure I’ve got all the ingredients I need. But this walnut and bean bolognese was a real store cupboard recipe, made only with ingredients I already had in my kitchen.
I bet you’ll have most of the ingredients at home already too – and if not, the recipe can easily be adapted to suit what you’ve got.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this easy vegan bolognese:
- onions and garlic
- tinned lentils and cannellini beans
- a few dried herbs and spices
- tinned tomatoes and tomato puree
Bean and lentil bolognese
I always have various tins of beans and lentils in my kitchen cupboards – they’re so insanely versatile.
You can use dried beans and lentils if you prefer, but I love how easy the tinned varieties are to use. No soaking or boiling necessary, just throw a couple of tins into a pan with some sautéed onions and garlic, and your lentil bolognese is already halfway done.
Simple tomato sauce
Next, add some tinned tomatoes and tomato puree. A few dried herbs and spices help to add plenty of flavour – I used my beloved smoked paprika, as usual, as it gives a lovely subtle smokiness to the sauce.
If you don’t have any tinned tomatoes to hand, feel free to use a shop-bought jar of tomato sauce instead if you have some. Or make a big batch of slow cooker tomato sauce, so you’ve got some on hand for all sorts of recipes.
The beauty of this recipe is that you can just throw in whatever you have. It’s really hard to make a bad spaghetti bolognese.
The only other main ingredient in this vegan bolognese is the walnuts.
I’ve often used walnuts, along with beans or lentils, to make vegetarian mince (like I did here, in my vegetarian savoury mince). They add a beautiful texture – after being left to cook in the tomato sauce, they’re not super hard and crunchy, but they do still give the meal a really lovely bite.
If you don’t have any walnuts, you can skip them, but they are a really lovely part of the recipe, so I’d leave them in if you can!
Let everything bubble away for a little while until the sauce is nice and rich, and the beans and walnuts have softened up. It will all cook down into a thick, tasty sauce.
Obviously, a bolognese sauce isn’t complete without a big heap of spaghetti to serve it with.
You can either serve your bolognese sauce dolloped neatly on top of your spaghetti, or mix it all together in one big messy bowlful. Either way is equally delicious.
Your method of eating spag bol probably says a lot about you as a person, but I’m not quite sure what. I’m more drawn to the messy bowlful, so take from that what you will!
How can I adapt this recipe?
Since the aim of this recipe is to be something you can make with whatever you’ve got in the cupboards, there are all sorts of ways you can make it your own:
- add whatever vegetables you have in the fridge or freezer – mushrooms, peppers, peas, green beans, etc.
- or, add grated vegetables, that will be practically hidden in the sauce – grated courgette (zucchini), grated carrot, etc.
- swap the tinned tomatoes for a jar of shop-bought sauce
- use whatever beans you have in the cupboard – black beans, chickpeas, etc.
- skip the walnuts, or swap them for cashew nuts or pine nuts
How can I use up leftover bolognese sauce?
If you happen to have any bolognese sauce left over, don’t let it go to waste! Here are some good ideas for how to use up leftover bolognese:
- serve it on a baked potato
- make a cheesy bolognese pasta bake
- add some heat, and serve it with rice like a vegetarian chilli
- use it inside a quesadilla or burrito
- stuff a pepper
- top it with mashed potato, and bake for an easy shepherd’s pie
- make Italian-inspired nachos
Or, pretty much anywhere you’d usually use a plain tomato sauce, use this protein-rich bolognese sauce instead. Even on pizza!
Have I inspired you to try this walnut and bean bolognese?
Walnut and bean bolognese
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 390 g tin green lentils, drained (235g, or ~ 1 cup, when drained)
- 400 g tin cannellini beans, drained (240g, or ~ 1 1/4 cups, when drained)
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp dried herbs (e.g. dried parsley / dried mixed herbs)
- Salt (or a crumbled vegetable stock cube)
- Black pepper
- 2 tbsp tomato puree (tomato paste)
- 400 g tin (~ 1 1/3 cups) chopped tomatoes
- 90 g (~ 1 cup) walnut halves, chopped
- Spaghetti, to serve
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the onions and garlic, and cook for a few minutes over a medium heat, until softened. Add the drained tins of lentils and cannellini beans, along with the paprika and dried herbs. Season generously, and cook for a further 5 minutes, until the beans are soft and everything is starting to break down. You can mash some of the beans with the back of the spoon for a finer texture.
- Add the tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and chopped walnuts, and bring to a simmer. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes, until the sauce has become thick and rich, and the walnuts have softened a little. You can add a splash of water if the sauce starts to become too dry.
- Serve with spaghetti.
Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose. Information above is for 1/3 of the recipe, not including spaghetti.