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Quick And Easy Meal When There’s Nothing In The Kitchen

healthy lentil spaghetti bolognaiseDo you ever have days when there is “nothing to eat in the house”?

I often used to but I’ve learned to shop strategically and stock my cupboards and fridge so that even when I haven’t been food shopping for a long time I can make not only a healthy and satisfying meal, but one that is quick and tasty too.

Lentil spaghetti bolognaise is a great emergency meal for just this type of occasion as it uses staple pantry essentials, can be thrown together quickly and is hearty and filling.

I made it on Saturday night when we were tired from being out all day and Alun had to fuel up for his triathlon the next day. Side note: it was his first one and he did it in under 3 hours, I’m so proud!

I’ve started timing my recipes so I can be sure that I’m giving you accurate time estimates and not mislead you that its only 10 minutes when its actually more like 20. This spag bol took just over 20 minutes from start to finish including clean up.

You’ll see that I’ve changed the way I give cooking instructions to include at what stage I’m preparing which part of the dish because I believe that its these little things that make all the difference in efficiency and speed. I’d love your feedback on this change in style in the comments below.

I hope you enjoy it!



  • 1 onion (medium or large)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes or XX fresh tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil and/or oregano (can also use an Italian seasoning mix) or substitute fresh/frozen herbs.
  • 500g cooked brown lentils (1 large jar)
  • 500g spaghetti (1 pack)
  • Olive oil for frying
  • Salt and pepper to season


Optional extras

Tomato puree – adds a more robust tomato flavour and excellent source of several nutrients including lycopene (thought to be cancer preventing)
Pesto – gives an extra herby boost especially great when you use dried herbs.
Cayenne pepper – not all adds spice but also great for heart and circulation


Loving preparation:

Chop onion finely and fry in olive oil until soft (about 5 min).

Whilst onion is frying chop garlic and rinse the lentils well in a metal sieve or colander, you don’t want to have any bubbles left.

Once onions are soft and translucent add the garlic and fry for a minute. I don’t add the garlic beforehand because it tends to burn easily.

Boil plenty of water for your spaghetti – I use an electric kettle because its quicker but bringing the water to the boil straight in the pan is less fuss.

Add the tomatoes (+ tomato puree if you’re using it) and season with salt and pepper to taste (a good pinch of each).  You can also add a splash of red wine for extra depth of flavour if you happen to be enjoying a glass whilst cooking!

Once the tomatoes are bubbling you can add your lentils and herbs and lower the heat so they simmer away nicely.

Your pasta water should be boiling by now, so go ahead and add the spaghetti, you may want to break it in half to easily fit into your pan. I add a glug of olive oil to stop it sticking and a pinch of salt to flavour.

Whilst the pasta and sauce bubble away you can clean up the few utensils you used and start setting the table, dinner will be ready in just 8 minutes (10 for whole-wheat pasta).

Serve with a side salad if you have any fresh veggies in the house.

Buon appetito!

Serves 4-6 depending on appetite.

Note that you can easily half the quantities or make the full amount of sauce and the freeze it for another day.

Want more veggies? Try adding diced mushrooms and carrots to increase your veggie intake. Add them with the lentils. You can grate these in if you have picky eaters!

Over to you
In the comments below, tell me
What’s your emergency meal when there is “nothing to eat in the house”?
Do you like the new ‘method’ format’ what would be most helpful for you?

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