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Hidden veg and lentil spaghetti bolognese

Bea has already had two playdates – this is only her second week at primary school! The first one, last week, was two siblings both of whom were older than mine (that’s country schools for you – they all play together as it’s so small!). Such lovely kids. Yesterday she had her first little Reception friend over after school. It was really sweet. The little girl was a bit unsure at first, we had a few tears at school when I picked her up, but then she warmed up and was fine. Actually she was very funny, rolling her eyes at Bea in a knowing way when she was being especially nuts, which she is rather a lot…

Playdate food is a tricky one. I went through a phase of going out of my way to make ‘kid friendly’ but healthy food, like Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese for example. Then I got frustrated as many kids at playdates don’t actually eat that much, so I started making a spread of pitta bread with some homemade houmous plus fruit and crisps, which most kids like. To be fair, a pizza is pretty failsafe, homemade or otherwise.

The conclusion I have come to is that often kids don’t eat that much on a playdate, especially when they’ve not been before and it’s rather overwhelming/exciting for them. So just don’t have massive expectations. I always tell the parent that they’ve not eaten much and maybe they’ll need some supper. It’s more important that they have a nice time and socialise out of school than clean their plate isn’t it?

So I do already have a lentil spag bol on here… but I wanted to try it with tinned lentils, which are different – they are green or brown I think, whereas I used dried red lentils in the first recipe. Both are good. This one, also, has extra hidden veggies in, just to up the nutritional oomph. I really rate a good veggie spag bol as kids honestly don’t seem to notice. Obviously don’t tell them it’s different though or else they will kick up a fuss! It’s cheaper too, and genuinely delicious. A great midweek dinner staple – also why not batch make it and freeze the ragu in portions?

I used linguine but wholewheat spaghetti is very nice with this. You could also use the ragu as a lasagne base. It is a slow cooker dish, and it gets better if you simmer for a long time, but it’s easy to chuck together. You could probably make this in the slow cooker in fact – I haven’t tried it, but I would suggest Low for 7 hours. Or Medium for 5.

Serves: 4 
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1.5 hours (approx, you could cook for longer)
Total time: 1 hour 40 minutes

1 onion, finely diced
1 celery stick, finely diced
1 leek, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 courgette, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tin of lentils, entire contents – not drained
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato puree
1 small glass of red wine (optional)
1 heaped tablespoon of fresh herbs, finely chopped (I used rosemary, sage, thyme) – dried is OK
Salt and pepper

To serve: 
350g linguine or spaghetti
Extra virgin olive oil, drizzled


  1. Heat oil in a large heavy bottom pan. Toss in all the veggies and the garlic and sweat for 20 minutes on a low – medium heat. Stir often.
  2. Add your herbs and lentils, tomatoes and puree too. Also wine if using. Turn up heat and then simmer for about an hour.
  3. Put a large pan of water on to boil with a little salt. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve a cup of cooking water.
  4. Drain pasta and add bolognese to pasta pan, with a lick of water too. Toss, season – and I add a tablespoon of Parmesan to the sauce whilst tossing as well as a little extra virgin.
  5. Serve with more cheese and a little more oil.

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