1cupuncooked brown or green lentils, sorted and rinsed
3medium carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
2cupswater or vegetable broth
½small yellow onion, roughly chopped
1red bell pepper, roughly chopped
½teaspoonkosher salt, more to taste
3clovesgarlic, roughly chopped
¼teaspoonred pepper flakes (more to taste)
3cupsloosely packed spinach leaves
1can(28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 ½teaspoonsdried oregano
1can(14.5 ounces) petite diced tomatoes
½cupuncooked quinoa, rinsed
cooked pasta for serving
grated Parmesan cheese for serving (optional — use a vegan cheese if desired)
Fresh basil, chopped, for serving (optional)
In a medium sized saucepan, stir together lentils, carrots and water or broth (if using water, add ½ teaspoon kosher salt). Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes or until the carrots are fork tender and the lentils are cooked.
Meanwhile, in a deep skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, red bell pepper, and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until onions become translucent (7 to 8 minutes). Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and spinach and cook, stirring, until spinach is wilted (2 to 3 minutes). Remove from heat.
To a blender or food processor, add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, sauteed vegetables (keep the pan - you’ll be using it again), basil, and oregano. Once the lentils have cooked, remove carrots and add them to the blender or food processor, as well. Puree/blend until smooth.
Place the skillet or Dutch oven back on medium heat. Add diced tomatoes and balsamic vinegar and scrape any brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the pureed tomato mixture, quinoa, and lentils and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for 45 to 50 minutes or until quinoa is cooked, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cook pasta as directed on the package. Before draining, reserve ½ cup pasta water to thin out the sauce, if necessary.
Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve on cooked pasta, garnished with basil and parmesan cheese, if desired.
Nutrition information is for sauce only and does not include pasta, cheese, or fresh basil.
This recipe makes a big batch, about 8 cups. It freezes well, and will keep for up to 3 months. Store in labeled freezer-safe containers. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.