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.
*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.