I will start out saying I’m a bit hesitant to call this ragu given there’s no meat and it’s not served on pasta. And yet, here I am, calling it lentil ragu primarily because it’s the closest thing to describe this bulky sauce. Traditional ragu is made using stewed meats but do a quick search and you will see that most people use lentils for a solid vegetarian substitute. I took this and went one step more by adding bulgur.
My favorite vegetarian chili uses bulgur. It’s a perfect way to bulk up a meal with a meat-like replacement. Is it the same as a traditional ragu? Not even close. And yet, it’s delicious in it’s own way. The red lentils breakdown to form a thick sauce base and the bulgur is really the star. Don’t plan on using other lentils- the split red lentils work best.
Bulgur Lentil Ragu with Parsnip-Rutabaga Mash
A hearty vegetarian main featuring tomato-based bulgur/lentil sauce smothering a mash of parsnips and rutabagas.
- 1 pound rutabaga
- 1 pound parsnips
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 cup half and half
- Salt, as needed
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, minced (180g)
- 1 large carrot, minced (120g)
- 1 celery stalk, minced (50g)
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- 1/3 cup red wine
- 3 cups water, divided
- 1, 28oz can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
- 1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 1/2 cups cooked bulgur
- 1 tablespoon miso
- Parsley, for serving
- Heat a large tall-sided skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil followed by the minced onion, carrot, and celery. Cook until all are tender, 10 minutes or so. Add the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan as needed. Stir in the red lentils followed by the water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the lentils are tender, 22 to 25 minutes.
- While the lentils are cooking, bring a large pot of salty water to a boil. Peel the rutabaga and parsnips, cut into 1” cubes, and add to the water. Cook until the vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, return the vegetables to the pot, mash the vegetables, and add the butter, half/half, and more salt if needed.
- Once the lentils are cooked, measure in the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, rosemary, parsley, and bulgur. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes to let the flavors mingle. When done, stir in the miso. Taste and adjust the seasonings or add a splash or two of water if needed.
- Divide the parsnip mash into four bowls and top with the lentil ragu. Sprinkle with parsley before serving if desired.
Tips & Tricks: The bulgur and the sauce can be made ahead of time then reheated together before serving.
Nutrition: see the information.
One of the reasons I love this recipe is because it’s easy to swap a few ingredients to make it vegan and/or gluten-free. You can always switch up the base if you’re unsure of the parsnip/rutabagas.
Vegetables: Use mashed sweet potatoes, butternut squash, potatoes, or turnips for the base. Mix and match as you see fit.
Vegan: Drop the butter/dairy from the parsnip mash and use your favorite vegan dairy products or add a splash of almond milk.
Gluten-free: Swap out the bulgur for steel cut oats. It’s not quite the same consistency but the texture is similar enough.