Pasta. It’s literally the most taboo food when it comes to weight management. I think we can all agree that any whole food is going to come up as a better choice than something processed. And you’re right – there’s no spaghetti tree… much to my utter disappointment.

But please know that I ate spaghetti (mostly whole grain, but occasionally white) throughout the entirety of my health journey. It is not under the same category as bread, as far as health and weight loss is concerned. Bread is a dry, very calorie-dense food. Pasta is hydrated with water, much more calorie dilute, much lower on the glycemic index, and when combined in a 50:50 ratio with non-starchy veggies, a pretty great weight loss food. At least, in my experience. Your mileage may vary. But if you have a long way to go, weight-loss-wise, you will almost certainly be able to get away with pasta 2 or 3 times a month. I had it about once a week without any issues.

All that said, you don’t have to have pasta to have a pasta experience. Often, I would make this savoury, flavour-packed lentil bolognese and serve it over veggies and brown rice (or simply over veggies on its own) for a 100% whole food dinner that hit every possible spot you could ever dream of — filling, comforting, warming, emotionally fulfilling, bursting with slow-cooked flavour and definitely giving off fierce pasta vibes.

Also, did I mention you can literally make it by dumping all of the ingredients in an Instant Pot? Yep. Get on it!

Instant pot lentil bolognese by Toronto recipe developer and nutrition coach, Annabelle Waugh
Instant Pot Lentil Bolognese over mashed rutabaga with steamed greens.

Lentil Bolognese

Enjoy this hearty sauce on whole grain pasta, over brown rice or your favourite whole grain, or on zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash or any other veggie. Serve next to a heaping pile of steamed greens drizzled with good balsamic and freshly ground black pepper.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: about 50 minutes


1-1/2 cups dry lentils (I like the small green puy lentils)
2 cups no salt added passata or crushed tomatoes
2 cups water 
1 red pepper, chopped
1 container mushrooms, sliced 
1 carrot, chopped 
1 stalk celery, diced 
1 onion, chopped 
3 pitted medjool dates, snipped into small pieces with scissors 
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp garlic powder 
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp fennel seeds 
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Pinch cinnamon 
1 bay leaf 
1/4 tsp black pepper 

Combine all ingredients in an electric pressure cooker. Close and seal lid and set manually to cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Let release naturally for 10 minutes. Season with a little salt, if desired.

Alternately, combine all ingredients in a saucepan, increasing water to 3-1/2 cups and bring to a simmer. Simmer over medium-low heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 40 minutes, adding a little water, as necessary if it becomes too thick. Season with a little salt, if desired.

Serve topped with a little nutritional yeast, which has a natural Parmesan-like flavour, if desired.

Instant pot lentil bolognese by Toronto recipe developer and nutrition coach, Annabelle Waugh
Instant Pot Lentil Bolognese

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