March 07, 2009

Lentils with linguine

I had a friend who could only make one vegan dish. Whenever we went to his house for dinner or he came to ours for a potluck, he prepared that recipe. It was a lentil and elbow macaroni casserole and it was delicious, so I truly looked forward to our dining together. We didn't get together that much, and I decided I wanted to have the casserole more often, so I asked for the recipe. Imagine my shock when I saw that the casserole contained a half cup of olive oil. No wonder it tasted so good! I felt like I'd been stuffed and marinated. I tried to make a slimmer version but it just wasn't the same, and eventually the recipe disappeared from my collection.

Recently my husband found a recipe for lentils and pasta in the New York Times, and he's made it a couple of times. It's easy to make, has lots of flavor and reminds me of that yummy but rather high-fat version we enjoyed years ago. We like to make it with Whole Foods whole wheat linguine, our favorite whole wheat pasta of the moment. It would also be especially great with some nice thick udon or with rice pasta.

Lentils with linguine (adapted from a recipe in the NY Times)
  • 1 cup brown or green lentils, washed and picked over
  • water (or half water and half low-sodium vegetable broth)
  • 2 onions, one cut in half, the other finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut in small dice
  • 1 zucchini, in small dice
  • 4 large garlic cloves, 2 cut in half, 2 minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Pinch of cayenne (or more to taste)
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 12 ounces whole wheat pasta (especially linguine or udon)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
  1. In a heavy saucepan, place the lentils, halved onion, halved garlic cloves and the bay leaf, and add enough water (or water and vegetable broth) to come 1 1/2 inches above the lentils. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 30 to 45 minutes, until the lentils are tender but still whole. Place a strainer over a bowl and drain the lentils, reserving the broth.
  2. Begin heating a large pot of water for the pasta.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat and add the chopped onion. Cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes, and add the red pepper. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender and the onion is beginning to color, another 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook a few minutes more. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, the garlic, coriander, cumin, and cayenne. Continue to cook, stirring, for a minute, until the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the broth left over from cooking the lentils. Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid slightly, then stir in the lentils. Add pepper, taste and adjust salt, if needed. Keep warm while you cook the pasta.
  4. Cook the pasta according to package directions to al dente. Check a few minutes before the end of the suggested cooking time. Drain and toss with the lentils. Add the cilantro, and serve.

Buffy, the reluctant model


  1. Sounds great! Well, I guess you have to give the guy credit for trying. ;) I have a lentil spaghetti sauce recipe on my blog (just a smidge of olive oil!) that's quite nice, too, and reminds me of this (though no zucchini or pepper--just straight sauce).

  2. Ricki, I looked up your sauce and it does look really good. I was getting sick of tomato-based sauce and don't want to eat it for a while. I want to be happy to see tomatoes when they come into season again, and we get them from a plant, not a can! The lentils we used last night, when we retested the recipe, (not the ones in my photo) were tiny little brown ones with the most intense flavor. Just delicious.

  3. This sounds really tasty Andrea. That was a lot of olive oil in the original recipe, even for me and I am not overly careful in watching my fat content. I think I would prefer your version.

  4. Holler, I'd be the first to admit that the olive oil casserole was extremely tasty — until I found out just how much oil there was!

  5. I love lentils, so of course this looks amazing :o) I wonder if it would work with brown rice or quinoa in place of the pasta?


  6. Courtney,
    We had it last night over brown rice. It worked great. Quinoa sounds like a great idea, too.

  7. That looks delicious! I will definitely be adding this to my list of soon-to-trys!

  8. Mmmmmm..... we love lentils so I will try it. We just had lentil soup for dinner!

  9. Kris and Claire,
    I recommend using the brown lentils. They have so much flavor.

  10. Buffy is adorable!

    Your lentil dish looks great! I share your horror at the 1/2 c of evoo! I'll bet it was good though!

  11. Very good, as anything with that much oil would be.

  12. I don't eat a lot of pasta, but this looks really delicious. And budget friendly too!

  13. This looks really good. I can't wait to try it.


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