Remember my new marinara sauce recipe from earlier this week? I just had to share one of my go-to quick meals to go with it. I’ve been keeping this easy combination all to myself for the past few years, and it’s about time we talk about it.
Here it is: marinara sauce and lentils. I know, it might sound weird at first. But let me tell you, marinara and lentils is a delicious combination. Perhaps you have already encountered it in my lentil baked ziti?
Marinara offers deep, umami-rich tomatoes in irresistible sauce form. Lentils offer earthy flavor and a hearty, Bolognese-like texture. I use French green or plain brown lentils, which retain their shape better than red or yellow lentils.
Just combine marinara and lentils with whole-grain pasta. Ta da! You’ve successfully lightened-up a traditionally carb-heavy pasta dish into a well-balanced, fiber-rich dinner.
Watch How to Make Hearty Spaghetti with Lentils & Marinara Sauce
The photos here show my homemade marinara with freshly cooked lentils and pasta. All three components are super easy to make.
However, I won’t judge you in the slightest if you want to grab a can of cooked lentils (rinsed and drained) and throw it together with some store-bought marinara and leftover pasta.
Hungry times call for shortcuts and if hearty pasta saves you from a delivery pizza, that’s a win. This recipe reheats well, too, so it’s a great option to pack for lunch. Did I mention that it’s cheap, too?
You’ll find suggested amounts in the recipe below, although the proportions are really up to you. You can’t go wrong. Please let me know how you like this recipe in the comments. I hope it becomes one of your go-to quick meals, too.
Hearty Spaghetti with Lentils & Marinara
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Entree
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
This wholesome dinner features hearty lentils, marinara sauce and spaghetti. This vegetarian dinner is easy to make, affordable and delicious! Recipe yields 4 servings.
- ½ cup dry lentils (French green lentils or regular brown lentils), or 1 ½ cups cooked lentils (leftover or from a can, rinsed and drained)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled but left whole
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups vegetable broth or water
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 8 ounces whole-grain pasta (or 12 ounces, if you like your pasta less saucy than mine)
- Optional garnishes: grated Parmesan or vegan Parmesan and/or chopped fresh basil
- To cook the lentils, first pick through the lentils for debris (I once bit into a tiny rock) and then rinse them in a fine-mesh colander. In a small saucepan, combine the lentils, bay leaf, garlic, salt and broth.
- Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer until the lentils are cooked through and tender, which will take somewhere between 20 to 35 minutes, depending on the age and variety of the lentils. Drain the lentils, discard the bay leaf and garlic, and set the pot aside, uncovered.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, then return the pasta to the pot and set it aside.
- Stir the marinara into the lentils and warm them together over medium heat. Divide pasta into bowls, top with warm marinara and lentils, and garnish with Parmesan and/or chopped fresh basil, if you’d like. Serve warm. Leftovers will keep well, covered and refrigerated, for up to 4 days.
I added some sliced black olives to the sauce at the end, served it over a spaghetti squash, and it turned out absolutely delicious! I will definitely be making this again!
This looks great! But I want to ask. I batch cook. Can I freeze this?
Hi! I haven’t tried it, but it may be ok. Let me know if you try it!
This is our go-to recipe for Sunday nights. So much better than takeout! Our whole family enjoys it.
I’m confused! Are there 1 1/2 cups of lentils in one tin?
Hi Casey! These call for dried lentils. I hope that helps.
Looks delicious! I would add some vegetables, such as steamed broccoli, carrots, zucchini, spinach and so on.
Delicious!!!! Have made the recipe before per directions but today…..I sautéed about 8oz of mushrooms in about 1/2 tablespoon of spicy oil. Added an entire jar of marinara sauce (this time the jar was 24oz). Cooked the lentils in broth and when fully cooked added the lentils, broth, spices and all to the marinara…easily smashing the garlic and sending it thru the sauce. Cooked a 16oz package of spaghetti and poured the sauce over individual plates of spaghetti. Love the versatility of this recipe….seems like whatever you love to eat..add it to this sauce…Yum!!!
Thank you for sharing your variation, Mary!
Great recipe as always!
Thank you, Adriana!
Your marinara is great made with my home canned tomatoes!
I’m happy you enjoyed it, Virginia!
Can I use black lentils. I understand they are more nutrious.
Sure. The cooking time may vary. Follow my How to Cook Lentils for reference.
I used the black lentils and it was delicious.. I’ll be making it frequently. I just returned to plant based eating and I’m trying to find high protein meals that do not have any animal fat or cheese due to extremely high cholesterol. Every recipe of yours I’ve made has been delicious. Thank you.
You’re welcome, Kathy!
I don’t like lentils but was given some green lentils today. I’m also not much of a cook so I need easy instructions . I was trying to find a way to hide the lentil taste . This was a great recipe for me. It hid the lentils well. I ate this with spaghetti squash. It added was a nice added protein source. I usually eat it with beef. This was a nice vegetarian alternative . I added it to my recipe box for the future as it was easy to make and delicious . Thanks so much.
Daughter made this recipe for me for Mother’s Day. I love spaghetti bol. And wanted a vegan alternative as with the ageing process, comes dietary adjustments. It was delicious and a keeper for the recipe book. Didn’t think we’d eat all that we made, but demolished it all. Our daughter-in-law found your site and has made a few of your recipes and hasn’t had a recipe fall flat…ever! We are not here devotees. Keep up the great recipes and thanks for doing all the hard work.
This was so easy and so good! Perfect – using Rao’s marinara, on rigatoni noodles. Thanks!
You’re welcome, Debra!
I wouldn’t have thought to put lentils in spaghetti, but it really works!!! I added zucchini, mushrooms & orange bell pepper- this is really delicious!!!
So great and filling. And so cheap to make!
Another way to make this is to add the veggies you have that need to be used up. Today I sautéed an onion, a shredded carrot and some mushrooms and then added that to the lentil mixture. It’s just soo good!
I’m glad you love it, Raquel!
I had a homemade marinara sauce and vegan Parmesan on hand, but used your lentil recipe to cook the lentils. They were so good, and now I’m intrigued by your no-chop marinara. I’ll be trying it next time.
I love this recipe and have cooked it nearly every week for the last year! Home made marinara is certainly better but 90% of the time I’m too lazy so I use a jar. I also hate doing dishes so I try to only use two pots/pans. My method: fry onion and garlic together, then add sauce and rinsed lentils, bay leaf, veggie stock and seasoning. Cook until lentils are done. Also life hack is once pasta is cooked and drained I add a knob of butter and mix it over to make glossy. Thank Kate for this recipe!
This dish has no business being so tasty AND easy at the same time. It was delicious and I’m sure you could load some more veggies into it if you wanted. Yum!
Silly question but if you are buying tinned lentils that are already cooked do you omit cooking them with the broth,bay leaf and garlic and just add them straight to the marinara sauce??!
Hi! This recipe uses dried herbs.
I was wondering the same thing.
Love this recipe. Simple, cheap, tasty. I make it once a week and it’s downright exciting to have a night off chopping.
Great to hear, Diana!