Learn this easy technique to make a quick Lentil Sauce for pasta to add iron and fiber to pasta sauce without impacting the flavor or texture. This is a great way to make a vegetarian meal a little more satisfying—and it’s ready in minutes.

lentil sauce for pasta in kids bowl with spoon.

Lentil Sauce for Pasta

I’m always looking for easy ways to add iron to meals—especially since it’s one nutrient that can be more challenging for the kids to get enough of. And this easy pasta sauce is a new favorite option. You need just two simple pantry staples, the method takes just a few minutes, and you can store the sauce in the refrigerator or freezer for future easy meals.

This sauce doesn’t have as much iron as beef or chicken thighs would have, but it’s an easy way to add a few milligrams to a meal without impacting the expected flavor or texture of the food. It can be a great option for little kids who don’t love other iron-rich foods.

We love this as a baby food—try it as a baby food combination with orzo or pastina or mixed with pasta as a finger food or baby-led weaning food—for toddlers, and for the entire family. The tomatoes from the marinara sauce pair nicely with the mellow flavor of the red lentils, so the flavor of the marinara is the primary flavor note.

Lentil pasta in two white bowls with spoon.

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Ingredients You Need

Here’s a look at the ingredients you need to make this easy pasta recipe to share with your family.

Ingredients for lentil pasta sauce on countertop.
  • Red lentils: Red lentils cook really quickly and are rich in both fiber and iron. They’re also a vegetarian protein source that’s easy to keep on hand. (Note that red lentils are the only type of lentils that work with my instructions, so do not use green or brown lentils, as they take much longer to cook and have a much stronger flavor that may not be as delicious.)
  • Marinara sauce: You can use a jar of sauce from the store or homemade equivalent, such as my Extra-Veggie Marinara, which has additional vegetables including carrots and onions.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Below is an overview of the process involved in making this recipe so you know what to expect. Scroll down to the end of the post for the full recipe, including the amounts and the timing.

how to make lentil pasta sauce in grid of images.
  1. Add the lentils to a heat-safe bowl or large measuring cup. Cover with water.
  2. Place in the microwave and cook until tender.
  3. Drain the lentils, which should be very soft.
  4. Add the drained lentils to a blender with the marinara sauce. Blend smooth.

Store for future meals, or warm the sauce—in the microwave in a heat-safe bowl or simmer over medium heat in a pot on the stove—and serve with a pound of pasta, meatballs, grains, or other desired food. It’s delicious topped with grated Parmesan cheese, too.

Lentil pasta sauce in glass jar.

Foods to Pair This Lentil Sauce With

In addition to tossing the sauce with pasta, here are some of my favorite foods and recipes to pair this lentil pasta sauce with for both family meals and quick kids’ meals. This sauce can be used as a dip or as a sauce.

How to Cook Quinoa
Learn the basics of cooking quinoa, with easy (and flavorful) ways to serve it to babies, toddlers, big kids…and us parents! There is a base recipe here, plus simple ways to flavor it.
How to Cook Quinoa
quinoa in white bowl
Favorite Zucchini Tots
These bite-size Zucchini Tots are perfect to dip and dunk into ketchup, salsa, guacamole or sour cream. And they are such a delicious way to transform zucchini into a lunch or dinner main dish. Plus: You can make them in under 30 minutes and they store well for future days, too.
Favorite Zucchini Tots
zucchini tots with marinara sauce on white plate
Quick Broccoli Fritters
Combine a pile of broccoli with a few pantry staples to make the yummiest Broccoli Fritters—in less than 15 minutes. This veggie fritter is so good with a whole range of dips, and it's perfect for babies and toddlers on up.
Quick Broccoli Fritters
Broccoli fritters on white plate with dip on side.
4-Ingredient Baked Chicken Meatballs
With just four simple and affordable ingredients, you can make tender Baked Chicken Meatballs to share with the kids. Bonus: You can tuck a veggie into the mix, and they are perfect to batch-cook and stash in the freezer!
4-Ingredient Baked Chicken Meatballs
baked chicken meatballs on cookie sheet.
Turkey Sweet Potato Baby Meatballs
With just a few nutritious, flavorful ingredients, you can make a batch of Baby Meatballs (for a baby, toddler, or parent!) with turkey and sweet potato. They freeze well and can be served plain or in marinara sauce.
Turkey Sweet Potato Baby Meatballs
Turkey meatballs on plate with side of marinara sauce.
Easy Zucchini Fritters Recipe
We bake these Zucchini Fritters since they are easier to cook and easier to clean up. If you have a lot of zucchini, you can double the recipe to make a full muffin tin's worth!
Easy Zucchini Fritters Recipe
healthy zucchini fritters
Roasted Spaghetti Squash
With an easy cooking method, this Roasted Spaghetti Squash is a delicious side dish to share with the kids. Add more or less seasoning as you like.
Roasted Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash on baking pan.
Lentil pasta sauce in ice cube tray.

How to Store

Store sauce for up to a week in the fridge in an airtight container. To store in the freezer, you can pour the sauce into an ice cube tray and freeze. Transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer bag, remove as much air as possible, and freeze. The sauce can stay frozen for a year.

Thaw a cube or two for a single portion overnight in the fridge or in a bowl at room temperature. Or pour the hot pasta over a cube, place a plate on top to trap the heat, and let sit for about 5 minutes. Stir and serve.

Lentil pasta in white bowl.

Best Tips for Success

  • Use red lentils only for this recipe. Green and brown lentils take much longer to cook and won’t work the same.
  • Use wax paper to cover the bowl or container with the lentils in it to help prevent it from boiling over. Check every minute during microwaving.
  • Use the sauce with a pound of pasta or for dipping Zucchini Tots, Veggie Nuggets, or Chicken Meatballs.
  • Try adding red lentils to my homemade Marinara Sauce.
  • Adults may enjoy topping their serving with herbs such as shredded fresh basil leaves or parsley, or crushed red pepper flakes, olive oil, dried oregano, and salt to taste.
  • Pair with gluten-free pasta as needed.
  • We love this with a big Caesar salad and a side of Italian or garlic bread.
  • You can make the sauce a little thinner by adding some Vegetable Broth. This may be a good option as a stepping stone from buttered pasta to full red sauce.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this post, so please rate and comment below!

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Lentil pasta in two white bowls with spoon.

Quick Lentil Sauce for Pasta

Learn this easy technique to add iron and fiber to pasta sauce without impacting the flavor or texture. This is a great option to make a meal a little more satisfying and as an iron-rich vegetarian meal. (You can start with half the amount of lentils to start to ensure the kids like the sauce, if desired.)
5 from 14 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 8 minutes
Cuisine American
Course Dinner
Calories 60kcal
Servings 8

Ingredients

  • ½ cup red lentils (uncooked)
  • 24- ounce jar marinara sauce (or homemade equivalent)
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Instructions

  • Add the lentils to a heat-safe bowl or large measuring cup. (Choose a large bowl or cup, as the water will boil. Space will help prevent it from boiling over.) Cover with 1 cup water. Place into the microwave and cook for 3 minutes, stopping every minute to allow the water to settle. (This, too, helps it from boiling over.)
  • Drain the lentils, which should be very soft.
  • Add the drained lentils to a blender with the marinara sauce. Blend smooth.
  • Warm the sauce and serve with a pound of prepared pasta or meatballs, grains, or other desired food.

Notes

  • Store sauce for up to a week in the fridge in an airtight container. Or to store in the freezer, you can pour the sauce into an ice cube tray and freeze. Transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer bag, remove as much air as possible, and freeze. The sauce can stay frozen for a year.
  • Thaw a cube or two for a single portion overnight in the fridge or in a bowl at room temperature. Or pour the hot pasta over a cube, place a plate on top to trap the heat, and let sit for about 5 minutes. Stir and serve.
  • Use red lentils only for this recipe. Green and brown lentils take much longer to cook and won’t work the same.
  • Cover the bowl or container with wax paper to prevent it from boiling over. Stop the microwave every minute during cooking.
  • Use the sauce with a pound of pasta or as a dip for Zucchini Tots, Veggie Nuggets, or Chicken Meatballs.
  • Try adding red lentils to my homemade Marinara Sauce.

Nutrition

Calories: 60kcal, Carbohydrates: 11g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 0.4g, Saturated Fat: 0.1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g, Sodium: 404mg, Potassium: 360mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 373IU, Vitamin C: 6mg, Calcium: 18mg, Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Rate in the comments and tag @yummytoddlerfood on IG!

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Comments

    1. Typically they take longer to cook, so you’d want to cook them in water as directed on the package, then you can blend some into marinara sauce.

    1. I am not fully understanding the question—do you mean can you blend cooked lentils into mac and cheese sauce?

  1. any tips to make this on the stove instead? my microwave is very low wattage and i don’t want to deal with trying to find the right cooking time. thank you!!

    1. I’ve only made this with red lentils. If you have brown ones, it may have a stronger lentil flavor which may not be as yummy.

  2. 5 stars
    I liked the texture this gave the sauce. Great hack for getting extra protein, fiber, and iron in ”plain” sauce.

  3. 5 stars
    This was beyond easy and my daughter LOVES it! The added fiber and iron make me feel so much better about the nutrition while not changing the taste of her pasta much at all. We even add it to her mini meatballs!

  4. my lentils were not cooked even after 4.5 mins. had to keep cooking and adding water. was i doing something wrong? did they need to be soaked?

      1. It took much longer for me too, with red lentils, closer to 6 minutes. Maybe just that different microwaves cook differently? It did eventually work!

  5. 5 stars
    So easy (and enjoyable) to make. Served it to my daughter at the weekend and she loved it. She said “you have to give me more tomorrow”! And then today when I gave her a choice for forest school lunch tomorrow, she picked ‘red lentil’ pasta over pesto pasta which is a first – nothing normally beats pesto pasta! As with literally every yummy toddler food recipe I’ve ever made, it is great!