Red Lentil Ragu (Freezer Friendly!)

Bowl of orange spaghetti with a dish of grated cheese on the side.

I thought I’d re-visit this delicious, easy Red Lentil Ragu recipe from my student days with some fresh new photos today as it is made from cheap, store cupboard ingredients, and as it freezes beautifully so can be batch cooked to save on those energy bills, the souring cost of the latter, combined with the weekly food shop being particually pressing issues I think we’re all starting to feel the strain of at the moment!

It was – and remains – one of my favourite things to make for dinner during the cooler months, with the amount of time it saves me with future dinners as an added bonus. It is a slightly different beast to my Rich Lentil Bolognese, and I actually think I like it’s homey, comforting flavours better.

Close up of a bowl of red lentil pasta.
Bowl of red lentil ragu mixed with wholemeal spaghetti.

You will need a very big pot to make this Red Lentil Ragu in, and it makes about eight to ten portions, served over spaghetti. That is at least 7 quick, easy and delicious weeknight dinners you’ll have over the next month or so you don’t have to worry about. I like to take it out at lunch time to defrost, then just tip it into a saucepan with a couple of glugs of water to heat up while the pasta is cooking, but you can also do it in a bit of water straight from frozen at the last minute. This is good if you’ve totally forgotten about feeding yourself, or if something has gone wrong with dinner, or I’ve forgotten to get any fresh veg in. Okay so if you use the latter method the texture won’t be as good, but it will still be utterly delicious and a total life saver, and that is what matters, right?

Red lentil ragu pasta topped with grated cheese.

Once again if you flip back through my beloved student meals, this is a recipe adapted from BBC Good Food. I don’t get all of my recipes from there, but I grew up learning to cook out of their magazine, so while I love reading cookbooks for ideas, if I fancy like making my own tomato pasta sauce, or steaming some mussels, I always turn to them for a basic base recipe.

You might notice that some of the conversions I’ve done from metric don’t match up for once; I changed it a little for what size packets ingredients come in in America, as I spent some time as a student in Los Angeles, and the end result tasted identical. This is one of those non-fussy recipes that has worked beautifully in my kitchens both sides of the Atlantic, and I hope will work well in yours, too!

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Close up of a bowl of red lentil pasta.

Freeze Ahead Red Lentil Ragu

  • Author: Rachel Phipps
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 810 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Batch Cooking


This easy, naturally vegan Red Lentil Ragu recipe is a great freeze-ahead alternative to meat sauce over your Saturday-night spaghetti!


  • 3 tbsp light oil
  • 2 onions
  • 3 carrots
  • sea salt
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 500g (1lb) red lentils
  • 2 x 400g (1 x 28 oz) tins chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp dried thyme 
  • 1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock
  • freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat the oil in a very large lidded saucepan or casserole, and add the finely chopped carrots and onions. Gently fry over a medium heat with a pinch of salt until the onions are soft, but nothing is burnt.
  2. Peel and crush the garlic, adding it to the pan and continuing to cook for another minute or two until aromatic.
  3. Add the lentils, rinsed under the cold tap in a sieve until the water runs clear, chopped tomatoes, the tomato puree, dried herbs and the stock. Stir well and bring to the boil.
  4. Lower the heat until just simmering, and put the lid on the pan to cook for 40 to 50 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop the lentils sticking to the bottom.
  5. Season to taste, and serve stirred through freshly cooked pasta (I prefer to use wholewheat spaghetti here) and with grated parmesan or pecorino, if liked. 


If you wish to halve the recipe, use two medium carrots and two medium garlic cloves.

Keywords: ragu, vegan, lentils, red lentils, pasta, dinner