|Lentils form the base for this meaty tomato sauce.|
Spaghetti squash is a good gluten free alternative to pasta.
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Meat Sauce Alternative
When you simmer cooked lentils in a rich, seasoned tomato sauce they not only provide a meaty texture but they also deliver protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Let's compare a cup of lentils to a 3 ounce serving of ground beef.
One cup of cooked lentils has the same number of calories as a 3 ounce serving of ground beef but has only 5% of the total fat and essentially no saturated fat or cholesterol.
They are pretty comparable in protein but lentils deliver more than half of your daily fiber requirement while ground beef provides zip. And don't fear lentils' carbs. They are the complex kind that keep your blood sugar stable and slowly provide glucose to your cells.
Lentils are packed with folate, a B vitamin critical for heart health, the production of new cells and especially important for pregnant women. While 1 cup of lentils provides 90% of your daily requirement of folate, ground meat only provides 3%. And while the non-heme iron found in lentils is not absorbed as well as the heme-iron in the ground beef, well - there's 3 times as much of it so not to worry!
Ground beef has the one advantage of providing vitamin B12 which lentils do not.
Spaghetti squash is a wonderful alternative to pasta when you are trying to avoid some carbs and calories. It's also naturally gluten free. It's magical the way the cooked flesh turns into spaghetti strands. But I love this lentil "meat" sauce on pasta too - either whole wheat or, if you are avoiding gluten, served on any gluten free alternative like Tinkyada brown rice spaghetti pasta.
Spaghetti and Not Meat Sauce
Vegan, Gluten Free (on spaghetti squash or gluten free pasta)
[makes 4 servings]
3 pound spaghetti squash*
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (or to taste)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 can drained lentils
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 cups prepared tomato sauce
* or 8 ounces whole grain or gluten free spaghetti cooked according to manufacturers directions
Prepare the spaghetti squash. Cut in half, scoop out the seeds and place in a large pot with one or two inches of water. Cover and steam until a fork barely penetrates the flesh, about 15 to 18 minutes. Don't overcook or it will turn to mush. Remove the spaghetti squash from the pot immediately.
|Cover and steam until cooked.|
Using a fork, gently pull the squash away from the sides uncovering little spaghetti-like strands. Continue to do this until all the squash is removed. Place the spaghetti strands on a platter, cover to keep warm and set aside.
|Form strands with a fork|
Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the onions and peppers at medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the chili flakes and garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant, 1 or 2 minutes.
|Cook onions, pepper, garlic and chili flakes|
Add the basil, oregano, lentils and salt and stir to combine.
|Stir in lentils and seasoning|
Add the tomato sauce and simmer until the flavors blend and the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes or more. If you are using this topping on regular pasta, this would be a good time to cook the pasta.
|Simmer until the flavors blend and the sauce thickens|
Serve on top of spaghetti squash (pictured above) or stir together with whole wheat or gluten free pasta.
|Not Meat sauce on top of whole wheat pasta|
Per serving (on spaghetti squash): 293 calories, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 201 mg omega-3 and 635 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 12 g protein, 52 g carbohydrates, 14.9 g dietary fiber and 1050 mg sodium*.
Per serving (on whole grain pasta): 390 calories, 5 g fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 93 mg omega-3 and 862 mg omega-6 fatty acids, 19 g protein, 74 g carbohydrates, 15.2 dietary fiber and 1002 g sodium"
* sodium can be reduced by using "no salt added" canned lentils or cooking your own lentils.