Pasta with Sicilian Lentil Sauce

I first heard of this dish from a friend whose Italian mother-in-law makes it regularly. Always one to go for hearty and offbeat combinations, I couldn’t wait to try it. This is a filling dish, and you’ll need only a simple salad and a green vegetable such as broccoli to make a satisfying meal.

Serves: 6

  • 3/4 cup lentils
  • 1/2 pound penne or ziti
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup sliced white or crimini mushrooms, optional
  • 4 cups Classic Marinara Sauce, or 1 28-ounce jar good-quality marinara sauce
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegan Parmesan cheese, storebought or homemade, for topping, optional

Rinse and sort the lentils and combine them in a small saucepan with 1 1/2 cups water. Slowly bring to a simmer, then simmer very gently, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes, until they are tender but still hold their shape. Drain any excess water. Do this step ahead of time.

Cook the pasta in plenty of rapidly simmering water until al dente, then drain.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion and garlic and sauté over medium-low heat until the onion is translucent. Add the bell pepper and optional mushrooms continue to sauté until the onion is golden.

Stir in the cooked lentils and marinara sauce. Slowly bring to a simmer, then simmer gently, covered, for 10 minutes.

Combine the lentil sauce with the cooked pasta in a large serving container and toss together thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve, passing around Parmesan cheese for topping, if desired.

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