Lentils are a very good and healthy legume, rich in proteins and in iron.
There are various types of lentils, with different colors, shapes, size. And differently than other legumes it’s not needed to soak them for hours in water, at least not in this recipe.
What I used in this case are “lenticchie di Colfiorito“, as the name suggests they are produced in the plateau of Colfiorito, at 1400 meters of altitude, an area which is famous for this production and these lentils have a small size, they are one of those types which don’t lose the peel while cooking and they stay firm after cooking, which is important for the final texture of this dish. But don’t worry, also with other types you will make a good dish 🙂 it’s just an extra detail.
The fact the we don’t soak them in water for hours it’s also helping to keep them firm after cooking.
Usually pancetta or lardo (or guanciale) is used too, to make this dish even more tasty (they match perfectly with lentils!), but if you want to make it vegetarian don’t use it but add some more extra virgin olive oil. And don’t use neither the Parmigiano Reggiano rinds if you want to make it also vegan, but then you are gonna remove two important and typical flavors to this dish 😉
Tomato: I used the triple tomato concentrate, but also a good tomato sauce or some good and tasty fresh tomatoes (when it’s their season) are good choices, of course.
On the web you can find recipes with pre-cooked canned lentils: well, it’s possible, but they don’t have the same taste and neither the same texture, so if you aim to the best result just choose the dry lentils and be patient 🙂
Let’s see how to make it!
INGREDIENTS (4 people):
- 280 g of lentils
- 360 g of mixed pasta (or small pasta like ditaloni, tubetti, etc.)
- 60-70 g of pancetta or lardo or guanciale (this time I used the last one, since I had it)
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2-3 ribs of celery
- 1 tablespoon of triple tomato concentrate (or some tomato sauce)
- chili (just enough)
- vegetable stock, at least 1 liter, maybe more
- Parmigiano Reggiano rinds, 2-3 pieces
- 1 bunch of parsley
- freshly ground black pepper
- fresh rosemary, thyme, sage to add extra flavor
- First of all, if you don’t have it already, prepare the vegetable stock with the usual onion, celery, carrots, parsley, etc.
- Then cut the guanciale/pancetta into thin slices. Take a pot and heat the extra virgin olive oil with the guanciale/pancetta, then once the animal fat got some nice color and has become a bit crunchy (this if you use pancetta or guanciale, not the lardo) add the celery which you have previously cut into small pieces, the chili and also the garlic (smash it with the flat side of the knife), and cook at low heat until soft. Once the garlic got some color remove it.
- Then add the lentils and mix them with the other vegetables inside the pot, let them cook together for 2-3 minutes, then add some ladles of hot vegetable stock, the triple tomato concentrate diluted in some stock and the Parmigiano Reggiano rinds, and let the lentils simmer for about 1 hour at low heat. Add also the herbs, better if tied together so you can remove them more easily later, and season with some salt (but not too much, especially if the vegetable broth is already salted, and consider that the Parmigiano Reggiano rinds are also salted).
- After one hour (but try the lentils first, maybe you need some more minutes) remove the herbs and you can add the pasta, pour some more vegetable stock exactly enough to cover the pasta. Control if the salt is enough.
- While the pasta is cooking (it will take about 10-15 minutes, depending on which pasta you use, read the package) keep stirring regularly to avoid the pasta to attach on the bottom, and if you need you can add some more stock, but not too much, the final texture has to be quite thick.
- When the pasta is cooked add the freshly chopped parsley and also some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano if you would like, mix all together and let it rest covered for few minutes.
- Serve it, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper if you would like 🙂 Enjoy!
PS: if you would like to have it more creamy you can take out 1/3 or 1/4 of the cooked lentils with some liquid and reduce in a cream with an immersion blender. In any case pasta richer in starch will give you better results in this recipe.
Products used in this recipe:
Lentils: lenticchie biologiche di Colfiorito
Pasta: mixed pasta from Pastificio Gentile