Jarred marinara didn’t used to count as a “real” recipe ingredient to me, and now look at it here, taking a key part in my two, yes TWO, ingredient lentil marinara sauce.
I grew up on Ragu and loved the stuff. That WAS spaghetti sauce in our house. I had no idea that there were Italian households and an entire geographical region (the east coast) where homemade tomato sauce was the standard. And for a while, when time was on my side, it became my standard, too. Especially if we’re counting Deb’s 3-ingredient sauce, because that stuff is dang delicious.
Then I got busy. Namely with one child, a move, another child, another move, and, you know, a pandemic. Now, Costco’s three pack of organic marinara sauce is on my regular shopping list. When we’re tight on time, and on the rare occasion there’s nothing batch cooked in the fridge, pasta is it. My kids LOVE the red sauce with just about any kind of noodle, and my husband can put away an impressive sized bowl of it. I usually take mine topped with chickpeas and whatever cooked veggies we have on hand.
It used to be simple to brown up some ground beef and onions before pouring our Kirkland sauce over it to end up with plenty of protein in our pasta. But since going plant-based almost nine months ago, adding protein is not as intuitive. I’ve loved legumes all my life, but the pandemic had us in a REAL meat eating habit. So what to do when we need to mix up the canned chickpeas routine?
Here are some ideas:
- Toss a couple big scoops of hummus into your sauce and warm together
- Blend a jar of sauce with a big handful of cashews or canned white beans
- My favorite: make two ingredient lentil marinara sauce
Relying on the added seasonings and possibly veggies in your favorite jarred vegan tomato sauce, literally all you have to do is–
- add lentils
- add water
Thirty minutes in, the lentils are nice and tender, the sauce is reduced and thickened, and you’ve had time to boil pasta, mix up a salad kit, or do whatever it is that needs doing in your evening routine.
Should You Batch Cook Lentil Marinara?
Normally my answer is a resounding yes, so I’m sorry to confuse you by saying maybe here.
If you’re making it to eat throughout the week and store in the fridge, I say YES, make as big of a batch as you need!
You can freeze lentil marinara sauce, but I wouldn’t recommend it highly. Here’s why: your tomato sauce is processed once to prepare for packaging and purchase, then it’s heated while you simmer it with the lentils, then, if you’re making it ahead, it’s heated again when you’re ready to eat.
Being a batch cooking fanatic, I have no qualms with reheating, but I try to be strategic to minimize it if I can. Throwing freezing in there with several rounds of processing/cooking is just one more way to mess with the nutrients in the food. So while you certainly can freeze it if you’re going solely for taste and convenience, I’d avoid it if possible.
What Else Can You Do with Lentil Marinara?
I’m posting this recipe primarily as a prequel to my vegan spaghetti squash pie recipe. You’ll need this nice thick, chunky sauce to layer over creamy spaghetti squash noodles and under some melty vegan mozzarella cheese. Yum! I can almost taste it, and the recipe to the pie will be linked here soon (here’s the classic non-vegan version).
Here are some other ideas, if you haven’t already run off to start simmering your sauce:
- With pasta for a quick and easy dinner
- In your favorite vegan lasagna recipe (mine is linked)
- Atop an Italian-themed baked potato bowl, with roasted veggies
- With just some cooked veggies and vegan parm, if you’re trying to keep it low carb or looking for a protein-packed savory snack
- As pizza sauce!
2 jars (25 to 32 oz. each) of your favorite vegan marinara sauce
1 1/2 C dry lentils (green, brown, or French green)
1 1/2 C water
In a saucepan or high-sided skillet, combine marinara sauce, lentils, and water.
Bring to a simmer over medium high, then partially cover with lid or cover with a splatter screen.
Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils are cooked through and sauce has thickened.
Keywords: tomato sauce, pasta sauce, lentils