Spicy Red Pasta with Lentils

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Two plates of our Spicy Red Pasta with Lentils and GF Pasta for a plant-based dinner

Sometimes, you just need a hearty, comforting pasta dish, especially in the midst of winter.

This recipe does the trick, delivering on flavor, simplicity and heartiness.

This red sauce is spicy, bold, and infused with red lentils for added protein.

Cooking our Spicy Red Lentil Pasta recipe in a cast-iron skillet

Plus, it’s vegan and gluten-free, and it comes together in just 30 minutes. Shall we?

This recipe is inspired by my Simple Chickpea Bolognese. If you haven’t tried that recipe yet, you must! It’s hearty, filling, and a new spin on classic bolognese. Plus, carrot noodles for the win!

I’ve wanted to make a dish with red lentils for a while now, because they’re tender, slightly sweet, cook quickly, and pair especially well with sauces and soups. Not to mention, they’re rich with health benefits, including iron, fiber, folate, and protein.

The sauce itself is incredibly simple, relying on a base of garlic, carrots, and tomatoes for flavor and texture. Next comes tomato paste and sauce for rich tomato flavor. And spices like red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, and sea salt bring it to life. Serve with gluten free pasta for a seriously delicious and hearty plant-based meal.

Cast-iron skillet filled with our recipe for Spicy Red Pasta with Lentils

I hope you love this pasta! It’s:

Hearty
Rich
Flavorful
Spicy
Quick
Healthy
& Delicious

This would make the perfect meal when you’re craving something quick, healthy, and filling, making it ideal for weeknight meals. And because it’s so flavorful and protein-packed (15+ grams protein per serving!), vegans and meat-eaters alike will love it.

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a picture #minimalistbaker on Instagram! We’d love to see what you come up with. Cheers, friends!

Plate filled with our Spicy Red Pasta with Lentils for a healthy gluten-free vegan meal

Spicy Red Pasta with Lentils

Simple, 30-minute spicy red pasta sauce with red lentils for added protein and fiber. Serve over gluten-free pasta for a delicious and hearty plant-based meal!
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Big plate of Spicy Red Pasta made with lentils
4.91 from 88 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 3
Course Entree
Cuisine Gluten-Free, Italian-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly No
Does it keep? 3 Days

Ingredients

LENTILS

  • 1/2 cup dry red lentils (rinsed in cool water for 1 minute)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 pinch sea salt

PASTA SAUCE

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (3 cloves yield ~1 1/2 Tbsp)
  • 1/4 cup carrots (very finely diced)
  • 1/4 cup diced tomatoes (optional)
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce*
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 pinch sea salt (plus more to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes (divided)
  • 1 Tbsp dried or fresh oregano
  • 1 Tbsp dried or fresh basil
  • 1-2 Tbsp sweetener of choice (such as organic cane sugar or coconut sugar)
  • 1 Tbsp vegan parmesan cheese (optional // plus more to taste)

FOR SERVING

  • 8 ounces gluten-free pasta (I like Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Fusilli, or sub carrot noodles)

Instructions

  • Add lentils and water to a small saucepan and bring to a low boil over medium heat, then reduce heat slightly to achieve a mild simmer (not boil).
  • Cook lentils to preferred doneness – 15 minutes for a slight bite, 20-22 minutes for more tender lentils. For this dish, I prefer ‘al dente’ so they don’t become mushy.
  • When lentils are finished cooking, drain off any excess cooking liquid, season with a pinch of salt, and set aside.
  • While lentils are cooking, heat a large, rimmed metal or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add olive oil, garlic, carrots and tomato (optional). Sauté for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • To prevent splattering, remove skillet from heat and add tomato sauce, tomato paste, pinch sea salt, chili flake, oregano, basil, sweetener, and vegan parmesan cheese (optional), and stir to combine.
  • Place back over heat and bring to a low simmer over medium-low heat. Once simmering, reduce heat to low and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • If serving with pasta, cook according to package instructions at this time. Then drain and set aside.
  • Sample pasta sauce and adjust seasonings as needed. Add more sweetener to balance and enhance the flavors: chili flake for heat, salt for saltiness, or more herbs for depth of flavor. If too thick, thin with a little water.
  • Add the cooked, drained lentils to the sauce and stir to combine. To serve, either spoon sauce over noodles, or add pasta to the sauce and toss to coat.
  • Serve with any additional toppings, such as red pepper flakes, vegan parmesan cheese, and fresh basil.
  • Best when fresh. Store leftovers separately in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Reheat sauce in the microwave or saucepan. Add a little water to thin if too thick. I’ve found gluten free pasta doesn’t keep well, so cook fresh for each batch.

Notes

*Tomato sauce is pureed tomatoes that are pre-seasoned with spices like garlic, salt, pepper, and oregano, and is different than plain puréed tomatoes. Adjust the sauce if using crushed tomatoes or purée by adding more seasonings to taste (i.e. garlic powder, dried or fresh basil and oregano, sea salt and sweetener of choice)
*Recipe adapted from my Simple Chickpea Bolognese.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with gluten-free pasta and without additional toppings.

Nutrition (1 of 3 servings)

Serving: 1 serving Calories: 497 Carbohydrates: 95.3 g Protein: 15.8 g Fat: 7.8 g Saturated Fat: 0.9 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.1 g Monounsaturated Fat: 3.5 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 740 mg Potassium: 1049 mg Fiber: 9.9 g Sugar: 11.9 g Vitamin A: 511 IU Vitamin C: 14.6 mg Calcium: 95 mg Iron: 6.7 mg

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  1. teresa rodriguez says

    when I say this recipe is incredible….it is incredible!!!!! I used 4 packets of Sweet Leaf stevia for the sweetener. And having it right now over fussili! That you for this!!

  2. Chris says

    Just made for lunch. Did not have carrots, so I added more diced tomatoes. Stevia leaf for sweetener. Teenager approved!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Isabella! You could omit the red pepper flakes if you don’t want it spicy, or start with 1/8 tsp instead of 1/2. Hope this helps! xo

  3. Karlene Meier says

    I gotta say, I make this recipe like, once a week! It’s my go to pasta recipe because I find it so flexible! I also love the use of lentils as I’m trying to get more protein and iron in my diet. It’s so tasty and when I’ve made it for my roommates, they can’t get enough either!

  4. Tali says

    This is hands down my absolute favourite pasta recipe now! I didn’t have tomato paste or chilli flakes and I didn’t use sweetener but it still turned out amazing! As a gluten free vegetarian it is difficult to find recipes with protein that still taste lovely and this is the best I’ve found. Thank you!

  5. Meredith says

    I made this with yellow split peas instead of lentils, which worked well. I really liked the texture, very similar to a meat sauce. I’m not vegetarian/vegan but try to cook meatless most nights, I would make this again. :)

  6. Jennifer says

    This was simple, quick, delicious and very nourishing/satisfying! I pretty much followed the recipe as directed except I used Swerve brown instead of sugar and I add some finely chopped brown mushrooms with the carrots and tomatoes. I served it over Banza chickpea cavatappi for extra plant based protein. This will definitely become a regular part of my rotation. Thank you for sharing. P.S. This fueled me for an excellent run the next morning! :-)

    • Dannielle says

      This is my go to, haven’t been shopping, don’t feel like cooking recipe. I always have all the ingredients on hand, so it’s easy and it always tastes amazing. I use a can of chopped tomatoes instead of a tomato sauce and I use honey as the sweetener. So good!

  7. Katie says

    Really great meal! I omitted the carrots and added a shallot but otherwise made it as is. Family loved it and appreciated the “hidden” protein.

  8. Brittany says

    Delicious! My husband (omni) and I (vegan) both loved it! Added a little garlic granules and onion powder (and snuck in a couple plant-based sausages), paired with roasted lemon garlic broccoli and, OMG, it was divine! I wish I would’ve made some vegan parm to go with it, but definitely will next time. Thank you for such simple, flavorful and healthy recipes!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you both enjoyed it, Brittany! Thanks so much for the lovely review! xo

  9. Ana says

    I adore this recipe! If using basil and oregano leaves do you put them in the sauce whole or do you chop them? Thank you!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks so much for the lovely review, Laila. We are so glad you enjoyed it! Next time, would you mind leaving a rating with your review? It’s super helpful for us and other readers. Thanks so much! Xo

  10. Amy says

    I made this awhile ago (and loved it!) and am revisiting with a question – I know this is rated as not freezer friendly, but does that apply to both the entire meal and the sauce, separately? I’m looking into more meal-prepping due to reduced grocery store trips and am wondering if just the sauce would freeze OK. Thank you!

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerSupport @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Amy, we haven’t tried it, but we think the sauce should freeze well. Let us know if you try it!

  11. Dana says

    I made this a while ago and loved it! I added more garlic and used regular parmesan cheese. It froze really well for amazing leftovers. I am back on this page to make the recipe again, and had to share my feedback! Thank you for sharing this amazing recipe!

    My only question is due to how versatile this delicious sauce is- have you tried serving it on any lower-carb options than pasta? I would eat this recipe more often if it didnt mean eating pasta regularly instead of as a treat.

    • Avatar for Dana @ Minimalist BakerDana @ Minimalist Baker says

      Lovely! Thanks for sharing, Dana! I think you could serve it over zucchini noodles, roasted broccoli, or roasted sweet potato!

  12. Lindsey says

    This was a perfect meal with ingredients I had on hand. It was spicy, flavorful and best of all EASY! I’m pretty full and my husband says it’s a repeat. Yum!