A warming ragu is perfect for a cold February evening – and you can knock this veggie one, from Lola Milne’s Take One Tin, up in no time.

"When I was growing up, my aunty Sophie often made a big pan of tomatoey lentils when we went round. This version is a nod to a traditional Italian meat ragu, but I have added soft aubergine instead and served with soft polenta and wilted greens," says Milne.

How to make Lola Milne’s tomato, lentil and aubergine ragu

Serves: 6

  • 6tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 aubergines, cut into 2.5cm cubes
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 bay leaves
  • A pinch of chilli flakes
  • 200ml red wine
  • 2 x 400g tins beluga lentils, drained and rinsed
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ragu recipe (Lizzie Mayson/PA)
Ragu recipe (Lizzie Mayson/PA)


  1. In a large frying pan, heat two tablespoons of the oil, add the onions and soften over a low heat for about 10–15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in another frying pan, heat the remaining oil, add the aubergines and a pinch of salt, then fry on high for five to 10 minutes, stirring often until the aubergine cubes are golden. Set aside.
  3. By this point, the onions should be soft and tinged golden. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, bay leaves and chilli flakes. Fry for a further two to three minutes, then tip in the wine. Bring to the boil and boil until it has reduced by two-thirds in volume (this shouldn’t take more than five minutes).
  4. Last but not least, add the lentils, tomatoes and the browned aubergine cubes. Season and reduce the heat, then simmer for 15–20 minutes until the sauce has thickened a little and the aubergine is buttery soft.
  5. Just before serving, fish out the bay leaves. This ragu is great with soft polenta, pasta or served simply with a hunk of bread.

Take One Tin by Lola Milne, photography by Lizzie Mayson, is published by Kyle Books. Available now.