Monday, November 29, 2010

Rotini with Lentil Bolognese

Seriously? I'm actually going to create a post about eating pasta for dinner? Um, yeah. I am.

I actually used to make whole wheat pasta with tomato sauce, every single night, as a side dish, to whatever we were having for dinner. We loved it, but it was a tad excessive - know what I mean?

Anyway, now we all really miss our daily pasta, and since with was a holiday week, and we were both exhausted and itching for some nice comfort food, pasta fit the bill. I really like meat sauce, but since I no longer eat red meat, I have been looking for a substitute, that adds a nice, hearty texture to a pasta sauce. I found this Lentil Bolognese recipe on Epicurious, but the reviews were a tad less than stellar. I ended up doctoring the recipe, to the point where is is basically nothing like the Epicurious version, though I used their recipe as base for inspiration. I will post my recipe below, and if you want to see the original, just click the link! Anyway, this tasted really good. I loved the flavor - Spicy, salty (but not too salty), sweet (but not too sweet!), and hearty. The only issue I had with this recipe, was that the lentils never really cooked well. There is actually a scientific explanation for this, but basically, when you try to cook dried beans in tomato broth, the acidity makes it almost impossible for the beans to get soft. So, basically, I cooked this for a full hour, and the lentils were soft enough, but not really as soft as I would have liked them. My remedy for this? Next time, I will use canned lentils (drained and rinsed), or I will partially cook them separately, then add them for the final 20 minutes of cooking. I personally think this will be crucial, to making this a second time. It didn't matter, because it was a lovely dish, with a lot of leftovers. I will make this again. It was easy, tasty, and a super comforting end, to a long and eventful weekend!

I used whole wheat rotini, which made this even heartier. Mmmmmm.

A big hunk of leftover, homemade focaccia, rounded out this meal very nicely. Jonah loved this bread!

Nothing like a chunky, vegetable ragu.
You should probably make this. Let me know how you modify it, and let me know how your lentils come out! 4 Bowls - gotta take a point off, for toothsome lentils!

Pasta with Lentil Bolognese

Yield: Makes 6 servings


1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 carrots, chopped
1-2 stalk celery, chopped
1 Bell Pepper, chopped (I used yellow)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 (15-ounce) cans chopped tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped OR pureed (juice reserved)
1 1/4 cups dried French green lentils or regular brown/green lentils
Coarse sea or kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp of dried basil
1/4 tsp seasoning salt (I used Penzey's 4S Seasoned Salt)
Bay Leaf
3-4 cups of Chicken or Veggie Broth
Dash of crushed red pepper

1 pound shaped pasta, such as cavatappi, rigatoni, or ziti
Pecorino cheese, grated or shaved (optional, but tastes better that way)
Fresh basil, chopped (optional)


1. In a large pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper, and garlic and cook slowly until the vegetables soften and turn golden, about 20 minutes.

2. Increase heat to medium-high and add the tomato paste. Cook until the mixture dries out a bit, about 3 minutes. Pour in the reserved juice from the tomatoes and cook, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until the liquid has reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Stir in the lentils, tomatoes, and 1 cup water OR broth (I used broth, as per reviews!). Add seasonings and bay leaf (and whatever else you want!)Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Season with the salt and pepper and simmer until the lentils are tender, 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the lentils. (If the sauce begins to dry out, add additional water as needed - I ended up having to add at least 2 cups of broth, throughout the cooking.) Reduce heat to low and keep warm.

** If you choose to use rinsed and drained, canned lentils, you should probably use 2 cans, and add them in the last 10-20 minutes of cooking. I'm not sure how this would change the reduction of the sauce though... Any thoughts on this?

4. Cook the pasta according to the package directions; drain. Serve with the lentil sauce, sprinkle with the pecorino, and garnish with the basil, if desired.

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