Despite growing up in a town full of Italians, I had never heard of pasta e lenticche until a friend of mine posted this recipe for it on Facebook a few months ago.
I took a Crock-Pot shortcut with the lentils and riffed on it just a little, ending up with what has become one of my favorite vegetarian meals. It’s easily veganized if you skip the milk, which I personally don’t think adds much.
2 T. olive oil
Small onion, chopped
Two small carrots, chopped (I used a couple of colorful ones from the farmers’ market)
Clove of garlic, minced
1 c. brown lentils
1 T. tomato paste
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 T. Italian seasoning mix of your choice
8 oz. ziti or mostaccioli
1/3 c. milk
auté the onion and carrots in olive oil about 5 minutes until the carrots soften. I started the carrots first, then added the onion a couple of minutes in. The original recipe says not to brown the onions, but I ignored that because caramelized onions always taste better. When vegetables are soft, add garlic and cook about a minute.
Put onion mixture, lentils, tomato paste, tomatoes, bay leaves, red pepper and seasoning in Crock-Pot, cover with about a quart of water, and let simmer overnight.
Just before you’re ready to serve, dump the contents of the Crock-Pot into a deep saucepan, add another cup of water and the milk, and bring to a boil. Add pasta and simmer 10-12 minutes until pasta is al dente and liquid has thickened and reduced a bit.
Serve in bowls with Parmesan, salt, and — if you’re me — plenty of hot sauce. (Note that I never add salt to dishes while I’m cooking them. Good chefs disapprove of this approach, but whenever I salt food as it’s cooking, the heat seems to break down the flavor so much that I end up having to add more at the table. Knowing how terrible excess sodium is for my body, I just can’t see salting my food twice to taste it once, so I just cut out the middleman and salt everything when it hits my plate. YMMV; plan accordingly.)
Serves four. I like this recipe because it tastes rich and hearty but contains very little fat and gives you a big nutritional bang for your calorie buck.