This vegan Merlot lentil bolognese is a rich, hearty, and savory sauce that pairs perfectly with pasta, zoodles, or a baked potato. The recipe is both protein- and vegetable-packed, making it both satisfying and flavorful.
I had you at Merlot, huh? Let’s get down to it, shall we?
Are All Wines Vegan?
Unfortunately, not all wines are vegan and it can be really hard to tell just by looking at a label. I recently learned that the lack of nutritional labeling on alcoholic beverages dates back to the Prohibition era. Alcoholic beverages are regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, as opposed to the FDA (which requires nutrition labeling).
Some wines have remnants of bugs to give the drink a red color. Others have been filtered using fish bladders (yeah, gross). Gelatin, egg whites, and casein are also sometimes used in the refining process. Any wine using any of these processes or ingredients would not be considered vegan.
Luckily, there is a resource out there that has done the research on tons of alcohol brands, from major nationwide brands to obscure craft brewers. When I want to know if a specific alcohol or brand of alcohol is vegan, I head straight to Barnivore.com and do a quick search. Barnivore is an online directory of beers, wines, and liquors (with over 50,000 entries) that includes whether a specific drink is vegan, is not vegan, or is inconclusive. Barnivore also shares the communications they’ve had with different brands that share how they’ve come to the decision on whether or not to label a product vegan.
You can drink your wine and cook it too! Some, but not always all, of the alcohol evaporates during the cooking process. The longer the cook, the more alcohol burns off. Wine can add a distinct flavor in savory dishes such as soups, stews, and sauces and it can also be used in sweet desserts like cakes and brownies.
Savory Merlot Bolognese
There is 1/2 cup of wine in this entire recipe, so it’s not likely to get anybody wasted or anything. The wine lends a deep, robust flavor to this bolognese. The lentils replace the meat found in traditional bolognese, but still pack a powerful protein punch. The carrots and tomatoes add fiber and flavor. We like serve our Merlot lentil bolognese on top of pasta, zoodles, or a fresh baked potato.
Merlot Lentil Bolognese
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 8oz package shredded carrots (about 2 cups)
- 4 cloves minced garlic
- 1 6 oz can tomato paste
- 1/2 cup Merlot or other red wine
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 2 cans (28 oz each) whole peeled tomatoes pureed in a food processor or blender
- 2 cups water
- 2 tbsp agave
- 2 cups red lentils rinsed and picked over
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup fresh basil finely chopped
- pasta, zoodles, or baked potato for serving
- Blend tomatoes in a food processor or blender if you have not already. You can purchase crushed tomatoes, but I think this recipe tastes fresher with freshly blended tomatoes.
- In a deep pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and carrots and cook for 8 minutes, stirring frequently so that it doesn't burn. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
- Add tomato paste and stir so that onions, carrots, and garlic are covered in tomato paste.
- Add red wine and Italian seasoning and give a stir.
- Add ingredients tomatoes through salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until lentils have softened.
- Add basil. Serve over pasta, zoodles, or baked potato.