Pasta with Lentils

I love this blog, Rachel Eats. I’m trying out more and more of her recipes after having one of my favorite meals in her neighborhood, Testaccio, in Italy. She makes these lovely, simple Italian meals. This little number, pasta e lenticchie, is one John grew up eating as an Italian American. So great, SO many delicious left overs.

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  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 75 g (1/6 lb) guanciale, pancetta or fatty bacon [We used guanciale, since we can get it, but I’m sure any would be lovely.]
  • a medium-sized onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • a medium-sized carrot
  • a stalk or two of leafy parsley
  • a stalk of celery
  • salt
  • 4 plum tomatoes (either fresh or tinned)
  • 300 g (½-2/3 lb) small brown/grey lentils
  • 350 g (2/3-¾ lb) short tubular pasta [I used only about ½ lb.]
  • black pepper
  • parmesan or pecorino cheese [I used pecorino because I had it, but use what you like on Italian dishes]
  • extra virgin olive oil for serving
  1. Very finely chop the guanciale, pancetta or fatty bacon. Peel and very finely dice the onion, garlic, carrot, parsley and celery. In a soup pot or deep sauté pan warm the olive oil over a modest flame and then add the guanciale, pancetta or fatty bacon, diced vegetables and a pinch of salt. Saute the ingredients, stirring and turning them regularly, until they are very soft and golden which should take about 15 minutes.
  2. If you are using fresh tomatoes peel them, cut them in half, scoop away most of the seeds and then chop them roughly. If you are using tinned plum tomatoes simply chop them roughly. Add the tomatoes to the pan, stir to coat them well and then cook for another few minutes.
  3. Add the lentils to the pan, turning them two or three times to coat them well. Add enough water to cover the lentils by a couple of cm’s. Bring the contents of the pan to a boil and the reduce the heat so the lentils and vegetables simmer gently, stirring every now and then for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Make sure the level of water is always more or less  a couple of cm above the lentils, replenish with as much water as needed. [For me, it was more like 40-45 mins. And I had to add water 3-4 times to keep the water level consistent.]
  4. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, taste and season again if necessary. Add the pasta and raise the heat so the lentils and pasta boil gently. Keep stirring attentively as the pasta will stick to the base of the pan. Add more water if necessary. Once the pasta is cooked (tender but still with a slight bite) remove from the heat and let the pan sit for 5 minutes.
  5. Serve with a little extra virgin olive oil poured on top and pass around a bowl of freshly grated parmesan or pecorino romano for those who wish.
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