Smokey Red Lentil Ragu – Healthy + Family Friendly Meal!

Smokey Red Lentil Ragu

I’m always on the hunt for tasty ways to get more beans & lentils into my kids diet (age 2 & 5). This smokey red lentil ragu is a hit in my house and is super easy to make, not to mention economical. It tastes even nicer the following day so we often get a second dinner out of it the following night which is a major plus for me knowing I’ll get a day off from cooking! 🙂

Smokey Lentil Ragu – you can barely spot the grated courgette!

Lentils are super nutritious, packed with plant protein and fibre to keep you fuller for longer and keep your gut healthy. They’re also a good source of iron, folate and magnesium all of which play a vital role in building our energy reserves…and this Mama needs all the energy she can get, trust me! There are also plenty of veggies somewhat ‘hidden’ in this sauce for extra vitamins and fibre including celery, courgette, red pepper, carrots, onion and tomatoes s well as garlic to boost our immunity and heart health – in short, it’s a very healthy and tasty meal and one worth trying out in your household. It goes well with a lot of things including pasta, mashed white/sweet potato, rice, quinoa or cauliflower rice if you’re trying to cut down on carbs.

In the pictures you’ll see I trialed it with brown rice pasta, just to see how it went down – nobody noticed it wasn’t regular pasta. Brown rice pasta is gluten free so a good option if you are sensitive to wheat/gluten or vegan, it’s also higher in fibre than white pasta. I got mine in my local SuperValu which has an amazing range of healthy foods in stock which is really convenient I must say. You’ll see from the photos I use quite a few of SuperValu own brand products and I find them very good, I’m not sponsored in any way, I just thought I’d share my experience as I’ve been shopping with them for all my adult life. If you are budget conscious, I estimate you could make this meal with own brand products for around a tenner which is good going as you could batch cook the ragu and freeze it, thereby get multiple dinners out of it! I guess my point is that healthy meals needn’t be costly!

Notes for fussy little eaters:  If you have fussy little eaters on your hands, I suggest you chop up the vegetables super fine or give the sauce a blitz with a hand blender to make it smoother, personally I prefer it a bit chunkier though. If you or your kids are sensitive to a little kick of heat from the chilli flakes, reduce the amount to a half a teaspoon or omit altogether.

FYI – I photographed regular paprika here by mistake but I used SMOKED paprika which gives way more flavour, the grated courgette is added after this point! The oregano is optional for garnish.

Smoke Red Lentil Ragu


  • 1tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 white onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, quartered & finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, finely chopped.
  • 1 small courgette, grated – becomes barely visible once cooked
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika (smoked gives way more flavor)
  • 1 level tsp. chilli flakes (half this amount if you prefer less heat)
  • 1 cup of red split lentils
  • 1 tbsp. tomato puree
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2.5 cups vegetable stock

Optional extras: Try 1-2 fistfuls of baby spinach added at the end of cooking, allow to wilt into the ragu then serve –  I add this after I’ve served the kids as I know wilted spinach in their dinner would throw them over the edge!As a garnish, I like to sprinkle a little dried oregano or basil or grated cheese on top but it’s not necessary, that’s just me wanting my dinner to look fancy 🙂


  • Heat the oil in a large pot, fry the onion, carrots, celery and pepper for a few minutes over medium heat.
  • Add in the spices and minced garlic and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
  • Add in the grated courgette and stir fry for another few minutes.
  • Stir through the tomato puree and dried lentils so they are well combined. Add in the tinned tomatoes and vegetable stock.
  • Bring to a soft boil then cover and simmer on low heat for approx.20 mins until the lentils are tender, stir every 5 minutes or so to ensure the lentils aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  • This is a good time to boil up your side of choice e.g. pasta or mashed potato – see alternative suggestions above.
  • If desired, stir in a couple of handfuls of baby spinach, allow to wilt then serve the ragu with your side of choice. Buon Appetito!

Elsa Jones is a qualified Nutritional Therapist & author of No.1 bestselling book GoodbyeSugar’. She does consultations in a Dublin clinic and internationally via skype. Check out Elsa’s Online Nutrition & Weight Management ProgramsElsa will present a 6 week nutrition & weight management course in Dublin commencing 30th April, 2019, email This is a live group course, places are limited.