Kid-friendly Italian "Lenticchia" (Lentil) Bolognese Pasta Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
over 1,000 kid-approved recipes coming soon! save your flavorites
Recipe: Italian "Lenticchia" (Lentil) Bolognese Pasta

Recipe: Italian "Lenticchia" (Lentil) Bolognese Pasta

Italian "Lenticchia" (Lentil) Bolognese Pasta

by Erin Fletter
Photo by Kana Proj/
prep time
40 minutes
cook time
25 minutes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

Skip to recipe

Italian "Lenticchia" (Lentil) Bolognese Pasta

Ciao, Chefs! It's no secret we love Italian food around here, and these recipes are oh-so classically Italian, with a twist, of course! Bolognese is about the richest, meatiest sauce we can think of, and it's very tasty (and traditional) eaten over fresh pasta like tagliatelle or pappardelle. If you've ever tried it, you know what we mean. Now, imagine a vegetarian version made with Lentils instead of the traditional beef, pork, or pancetta. Remember our German wurst (sausage) made out of pinto beans? Same idea! The downtime while your bolognese simmers can be filled by tasting and ripping up the ingredients for the Tricolore Radicchio Salad and whisking up the vinaigrette. Although radicchio and endive shouldn't be too hard to find for the salad, and the recipe really is better with them, we've given you a red and green alternative for each. There are so many fun ways to learn and connect to the beautiful country of Italy! Enjoy!

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • chop :

    to cut something into small, rough pieces using a blade.

  • grate :

    to reduce food, like a carrot, to very small shreds or pieces of the same size by rubbing it on a tool with an outside surface that has holes with cutting edges (a grater).

  • knife skills :

    Bear Claw (growl), Pinch, Plank, and Bridge (look out for trolls)

  • mince :

    to chop into teeny tiny pieces.

Equipment Checklist

  • Kid or kitchen scissors
  • Peeler
  • Grater
  • Cutting board + kid-safe knife
  • Large skillet or soup pot
  • Measuring spoons
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Large pot
  • Colander
  • Can opener


Italian "Lenticchia" (Lentil) Bolognese Pasta

  • 7 C water, divided
  • 16 oz dried or fresh fettuccine noodles **(for GLUTEN ALLERGY sub gluten-free/nut-free fettuccine or other pasta)**
  • 5 green onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 zucchini
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms
  • 2 T olive or vegetable oil + more for sautéing
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 T Italian seasoning
  • 1 C red lentils **(for LEGUME ALLERGY sub 1 lb white button mushrooms—more info below)**
  • 1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt

Food Allergen Substitutions

Italian "Lenticchia" (Lentil) Bolognese Pasta

  • Legume: For 1 C red lentils, substitute 1 lb white button mushrooms and cook them with the other veggies.
  • Gluten/Wheat: Substitute gluten-free/nut-free pasta for fettuccine noodles.


Italian "Lenticchia" (Lentil) Bolognese Pasta

snip + peel + grate + slice

Use a pair of clean scissors to snip 5 green onions into small bits. Next, peel and grate 2 large carrots carefully using a box grater and then slice 2 celery stalks.

smash + peel + mince

Using the heel of your hand, smash 2 garlic cloves against a cutting board (adults might need to help with this!). Then peel the garlic and mince up the cloves into small bits.

chop + sauté + season

Chop 1 zucchini into tiny bits! Then chop 8 ounces of cremini mushrooms into small bits, too. Next, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet or soup pot. Sauté the onions, garlic, carrots, and celery over medium heat until soft. Season with 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning and stir. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook until soft.

add + boil + simmer + stir

Add 1 cup of red lentils and 3 cups of water to your skillet or stockpot. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook until the lentils are al dente and water is absorbed. Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a separate pot and add 16 ounces of fettuccine noodles. Boil until the noodles are al dente, then drain and drizzle with olive oil to keep them from sticking. To the lentils, stir in 1 can of crushed tomatoes and 1 teaspoon of salt. Simmer uncovered until sauce thickens, about another 5 to 10 minutes. Taste and season with more salt or sugar if needed. Serve over cooked fettuccine noodles and top with parmesan cheese! "Mangia bene" (MAN-jah BEH-neh) or "Eat well" in Italian!

Surprise Ingredient: Lentils!

back to recipe
Photo by Nazaruk Nazar/

Hi! I'm Lentil!

"I'm small, but I pack a powerful punch—a nutritional punch, that is! I'm also a tasty addition to soups, chili, pasta, and salads and make a yummy vegan burger! 

History & Etymology

  • Lentils are edible legumes that were first domesticated in the area of the Fertile Crescent, which extends across Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Northern Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and parts of Iran, Kuwait, and Turkey. 
  • Archeologists have found evidence of lentil cultivation in Greece from 11,000 BCE and Syria around 6,000 BCE.  
  • Today, most of the world's lentils grow in Canada and India. 
  • The word "lentil" comes from Middle English from the Old French "lentille," from the Latin "lenticula," a diminutive of "lens." The scientific name for lentils is "Lens culinaris."


  • Lentils are part of the Fabaceae family, called the legume or pea family. The edible seeds, or pulses, grow on a flowering plant that is 6 to 18 inches tall. Two lens-shaped seeds grow in each pod. 
  • Lentils come in different sizes and colors, like brown, yellow, red, green, or black. They can also be mottled or speckled. However, the most common lentils are brown, green, and red.

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • Choose brown lentils that hold their texture when cooked if you use them as a side dish or want them whole in a soup without getting mushy. 
  • Green or French lentils also remain firm when cooked and are good in salads. Black or Beluga lentils are similar to French lentils. 
  • Red lentils cook the fastest but lose their shape, so they are suitable for purées and soups, like Indian dals.
  • You can flavor lentils with a variety of spices and herbs. They can be boiled, soaked, fermented, fried, puréed, and made into fritters, soup, and tossed in salads. Lentils are cheap, nutrient-dense, versatile, and tasty! 


  • Lentils are a rich source of protein, fiber, food energy, B vitamins (especially folate), phosphorus, iron, and magnesium.
  • Like other legumes, such as beans, lentils are high in protein and can serve as a meat replacement.
  • The soluble fiber in lentils helps keep blood sugar under control.

What is Bolognese?

Photo by Monica Turlui
  • Bolognese (Bowl-uh-nayz) is known in Italy as "ragù alla bolognese." It is a slow-cooked Italian meat sauce (or ragù) used on pasta that includes minced or ground beef, pork, or veal, "soffritto" (diced onion, celery, and carrots), white wine, milk, and tomato paste or tomatoes.
  • The first recorded recipe of a ragù served over pasta was by the local cardinal's cook, Alberto Alvisi, from Imola, a city near Bologna, Italy, in the late 18th century. A recipe for "maccheroni (pasta) alla bolognese" appeared in 1891 by Pellegrino Artusi, who had spent time in Bologna.
  • The sauce is traditionally served on tagliatelle pasta, but it is also used in "lasagne (lasagna) alla bolognese." 
  • A variety outside of Italy, called Spaghetti bolognese, is not considered authentic in Italy, and the sauce is more tomato-based than the traditional Italian version.

Let's Learn About Italy!

Photo by Marina Andrejchenko/
  • Italy became a unified country in 1861, only 150 years ago. It is sometimes called "bel paese" or "beautiful country."  
  • Italians invented the piano and the thermometer! 
  • In ancient Roman mythology, two twin brothers named Romulus and Remus founded Rome, Italy's capital city. The myth says the twins were abandoned and then discovered by a she-wolf before being found and raised by a shepherd and his wife. Eventually (and after many exciting adventures), they found themselves at the location of Palatine Hill, where Romulus built "Roma." The Italian wolf became Italy's unofficial national animal. 
  • In the 1930s and 40s, Mussolini, Italy's prime minister, and dictator tried to eliminate all foreign words from the Italian language. How did he do that? He just changed them! For example, in soccer, "goal" became "meta." Disney character names changed, too: Donald Duck became "Paperino;" Mickey Mouse became "Topolino;" and Goofy became "Pippo." Although they're not banned anymore, these words and names have stuck. So now if you go to the Italian Disneyland, called Gardaland Park, you will see Topolino and Pippo! 
  • About 60 million people call Italy home, and it is 116,350 square miles, slightly larger than the US state of Arizona. If you compare that to the United Kingdom, 67 million people live there, and it is about 94,350 square miles. So, the UK is smaller than Italy but has a bigger population! 
  • The Italian flag is green, white, and red. These colors represent hope, faith, and charity.
  • The average Italian eats close to 55 pounds of pasta annually. If you think about how light pasta is, that is a considerable amount! There are more than 500 different types of pasta eaten in Italy today. 

What's It Like to Be a Kid in Italy?

  • Kids begin school at 6 years old. They grow up speaking Italian, but they learn English in school, so many become bilingual in Italian and English.
  • The most popular sport for kids is football (soccer). The Italian word for soccer is "calcio," the same word they use for "kick." A favorite of younger kids is "Rody, the bouncing horse," a plastic horse that a small child can hop onto and bounce around the room. Rody was invented in Italy in 1984.  
  • The family ("la famiglia") is a central characteristic of Italian life. Children have great respect for their older relatives. It is traditional to name the first male child after the grandfather and the first female child after the grandmother.
  • If kids live close to school, they can go home and have lunch with their families! Lunch at school might be pasta, meat with vegetables, a sandwich, or a salad with lots of ingredients. Families typically eat dinner later (7 to 8 pm), so kids end up staying up later, too!
  • Between lunch and dinner, kids often enjoy "merenda," which is an afternoon snack that translates to "something that is deserved." It is really a mini-meal that can include both savory and sweet foods. Examples of savory foods are a salami or mortadella sandwich, a slice of rustic bread rubbed with a cut, raw tomato, or "pizza bianca" (white pizza without tomato sauce). Types of sweet foods eaten during merenda are "gelato" (a lower-fat type of ice cream), any kind of cake, or biscotti dipped in warm milk.

Shop Our Cookbooks

Now available on Amazon! Our cookbooks feature kid-tested recipes that build confidence in the kitchen. Expand your child's palate and spark a love of healthy foods with a Sticky Fingers Cooking cookbook.

Subscribe to the Sticky Fingers Cooking mailing list

Subscribe to our newsletter, The Turnip, to receive exclusive discounts and updates, insider tips + tricks from our awesome team, and instant access to the Sticky Fingers Cooking Starter Kit for free!

Souper popular!
16 people registered for a session in the last 24 hours