Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pasta with Lentils

When I was a kid, my favorite meal was steamed spinach, brown rice, lentils, and cottage cheese.  My Mom sent me a newspaper clipping with this and another lentil recipe on it while I was in college (where, unbeknownst to her, my favorite meal was Marshmallow Mateys).  She found it in our small-town newspaper which usually featured recipes full of meat and/or cream-of-something soup so when the exotic lentil got a mention, she clipped it right out!  Now that I'm in Mommy mode myself, though I do still have an appreciation for the marshmallow group, I'm favoring lentils for dinner again.  So when I dug this one out, I thought I'd give it a try for old time's sake.

The article is from the Jefferson Post in 1997 (probably a December issue judging by all the ads with Santa in them on the reverse side) written by Philomena Corradeno in her column, "The Chopping Block".

David Ruggerio, chef/owner of Le Chantilly, Pastis, and Chaz and Wilson Grill in New York City, in his "Little Italy Cookbook" (Artisan, 1997; $29.95), writes:
     "Among the many fascinating and quirky traditions Italian-Americans keep alive is the little-known practice of eating lentil soup on New Year's Eve at midnight while walking up and down the stairs."
     David has produced a delightful book of recipes and color photos that tickle the taste buds.  If you're tempted and want to eat lentil soup on the stairs, do it with his Pasta Lentiche, that is, Pasta with Lentils.  It's a hearty dish suitable for winter dinner...
Pasta with Lentils (Pasta Lentiche)
2 C lentils, rinsed
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 rib celery, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 clove garlic, peeled and left whole
1 tsp salt
6 C water or chicken stock
1 C ditali or other small pasta
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
2 T chopped fresh Italian parsley
Pecorino cheese, grated
     In deep saucepan, combine lentils, carrot, onion, celery, garlic, salt and water or chicken stock.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 25 minutes or until vegetables are barely tender.  Don't overcook.  Remove from heat; remove garlic and discard.
      Cook pasta until al dente according to package instructions.  Drain well and add to lentil mixture.  Mix well and add some fresh black pepper.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with parsley and serve with grated cheese sprinkled on top.  Makes 4-6 servings. 
Note: Ruggerio's recipe calls for small green lentils, preferably Italian or French but these are not easily available in supermarkets and regular brown lentils will do as well.

My substitutions/additions:
  • I used whole wheat macaroni.  I know it's not as fancy as whatever a ditali is, but it's what I had in the pantry.
  • I didn't use a red onion, which would have been prettier...
  • I used 3 C water and 3 C vegetable stock.
  • I wish I'd read the note before I made this, I actually had some French lentils in the pantry and it would have made quite a difference in the flavor and consistency.  

Review: My Mom used to make something exactly like this out of leftovers.  Who knew?  My Mom, a bon vivant!  Overall, it's fine.  I wouldn't pay gourmet prices for it, but it's a quick, healthy recipe, so I'll keep it.


  1. I've just come across your blog and I'm looking forward to trying some of your yummy looking recipes!


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