This plant based ragu is delicious, nutritious and has a gorgeous texture. The earthy sweet beetroots, wholesome lentils and crunchy, nutty walnuts all mingle perfectly to make a really delicious, vibrant pasta sauce. It is wonderful in layers in a lasagne too. If you are not a fan of beetroot, simply swap it for mushrooms and carrots. We do have a lot of brilliant beetroots coming out of our own fields now though, so this recipe is a great way to enjoy this locally grown, seasonal vegetable. Beetroots are brimming with goodness – iron, potassium, antioxidants and more!
Ingredients (serves 6)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 sticks of celery, finely diced
250g beetroot, finely diced
150g raw green/brown lentils, rinsed (or use two tins of cooked lentils)
100g walnuts, crushed/crumbled into lentil sized pieces
2 bay leaves
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1/2 tsp oregano
2 tbsp capers, finely chopped
1 glass of red wine
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
salt and pepper to taste
500ml vegetable stock
In a wide, heavy bottomed pan, on a medium heat, cook the onion, celery and beetroot with the olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Stir often and after around 8 minutes, the vegetables should be softened.
Then add the lentils, walnuts and flavourings (the garlic, capers, fennel seeds, bay leaves, oregano, chilli and thyme). Stir and cook for a couple of minutes to wake up the flavours in the seasoning. Then add the glass of wine and let it bubble until it is nearly evaporated.
Pour in the tin of tomatoes, the tomato puree and the vegetable stock and pop the lid on the pot. Simmer for 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft and the sauce is rich. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and keep an eye on the liquid levels, you may need to add a splash of water if it starts to look dry.
Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed with more salt or pepper and serve over freshly cooked pasta. Enjoy!
Ragu is a rich, slow cooked pasta sauce, traditionally made with meat and served with a wide pasta like pappadelle or tagliatelle. Of course you can also eat it however you like – with polenta or in layers in a lasagne with a béchamel? I love it with rigatoni, those large, ridged tubes of pasta pick up the sauce beautifully. My version uses earthy beetroots, satisfying green lentils and crumbled, rich, fatty walnuts. Delicious! Did you know we sell organic lentils and walnuts in our grocery section? If you have a slow cooker, this is a good one to get going in the morning and enjoy for supper. Simply boil some pasta and you’ve got a hearty, healthy meal ready to go. The ragu also freezes well so I always make a big batch and freeze some for a rainy day. And we are not short of those right now are we?
If you make this recipe please share it with us on our friendly facebook group, and please feel free to share this blog post with your friends and family of course! The illustration above is from my 2021 recipe calendar. While stocks last I’m including a free one with every book order this month. You can add my cookbook to your shopping here. Thank you.
I usually start a ragu with a soffritto. Soffritto is the word for gently cooking diced vegetables (usually onion, celery and carrot) in a little oil until soft to provide a base flavour to build a sauce, soup or stew from. In this case start with 1 diced onion, 1 large diced beetroot (or 2 small – just give it a scrub and don’t bother peeling, also finely chop & add the purple stalks from any leaves should you be lucky enough to have some – save the green leaves to wilt as a side), 3 diced cloves of garlic and a generous handful or two of crumbled walnuts. If you have celery to hand then definitely add a few diced stalks for extra depth of flavour!
Sauté the diced vegetables and nuts in the tbsp of olive oil in a large pot until soft. Then add a mug of green lentils, 2 bay leaves, 3 sprigs of thyme, a glass of red wine & a tin of chopped tomatoes. If you prefer more Italian herbs with this sauce then sub the thyme with some fennel seeds and a pinch of dried oregano. Add a tin of water or veg stock to swirl out the last of the tomatoey juices from the tin. Season with salt and black pepper.
Simmer until the lentils are cooked through then taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. This will take a minimum of 30-40 minutes, but if you have time to simmer for longer, the flavours will be richer. This is one of those sauces that is even better the next day. Keep an eye on the liquid levels as the lentils will absorb a lot. Add more water/stock as needed and give the pot a stir every now and then to prevent sticking.
Serve tossed through pasta or in a warm bowl with soft polenta and wilted greens.
For a healthy cake, this tastes incredibly decadent. It’s not too sweet and full of great flavours and satisfying whole-foods. So simple to make too – it’s simply a case of squishing together the base ingredients and blending up the cashew-cream cheese frosting, then putting it together and letting it set overnight in the fridge. Easy! I love this cake with a big mug of chai tea, have you tried our new Rooibos Cacao Chai?
Start off by soaking the cashew nuts – simply cover them with fresh water and leave to soak and swell up for at least an hour. Line a baking dish with baking parchment.
While the cashew nuts are softening, grate the carrots into a large mixing bowl. Then pulse the dates and walnuts together in a food processor until they are finely chopped and sticky. Scrape this mixture in with the carrots. Then add the desiccated coconut, ground spices and a pinch of salt. Use your hands to mix the base ingredients really well, then squish the mixture evenly into the lined baking dish.
Use the same blender you used to pulse the dates and walnuts, no need to clean it out, just make sure you scraped the date/walnut mixture out thoroughly. Drain the soaked cashew nuts and pop them in the processor with 50ml of water and the vanilla, lemon juice, maple syrup, melted coconut oil and pinch of salt. Blend until totally smooth, thick and creamy. You may need to stop the blender and scrape down the sides every so often to get a silky smooth cream cheese frosting. When you are happy with the texture, pour it over the base, cover the baking dish and refrigerate overnight to let the cake set. Then you can carefully take the cake out onto a chopping board, dust it with cinnamon and decorate it with walnuts. Slice it with a large, sharp knife and enjoy!
Tips: It’s best to keep the cake in the fridge when you are not serving it to make it last longer, and as the cashew cream can sometimes get a bit melty in a warm house. You can also portion it up and freeze it. It will last in the fridge for around 5 days and in the freezer much longer.
Did you make this recipe? Let us know in the comments how it went and please share your photos with us @greenearthorganics1 on Instagram or on our Green Earth Organics Healthy Eating page on facebook. If you like this recipe you’ll love my book. Available to add to your regular order from the farm here.