The perfect Mediterranean matching: pasta and lentils. I do adore it! A mix of vegetables which fits vegan people too: healthy and toothsome. Taste to believe!
I don’t know anything about its origin because I have invented it myself completely from scratch. This matching works perfectly well in Italy as it reflects our simple traditions. It could be made in a little while except for the lentils which take a bit longer to be ready. Honestly, I sometimes use pre-cooked lentils (the steamed ones in Tetra Recart): they definitely fit this recipe and you may save good time.
This is a super healthy dish
Nutritionists (ops, I am one of them myself!) are used to saying that cereals and pulses combine perfectly well as they balance each other’s amino acidic deficiencies and give life to a complete vegetarian protein. I mean: cereals and pulses are composed of several elements such as carbs, fibers, and proteins too. However, the proteins of cereals are incomplete as they lack a few meaningful amino-acids. Pulses contain a significant percentage of proteins, but they lack the amino-acids the cereals are rich in. It is a done deal! Let’s combine the two ingredients and here you are: a complete dish which contains all the nutrients. It doesn’t lack anything!
So, is pasta a kind of cereal? Yes, of course! Pasta comes from the transformation of a cereal, the wheat. Pasta is a kind of cereal, definitely.
In Italy, lentils make a perfect New Year Eve’s dinner, but not only.
In Italy, lentils are ritually consumed at New Year: they are believed to bring luck, and money. Eating lentils at New Year’s Eve to favor prosperity dates back to Roman times along with the tradition of giving those you love a bag of lentils at the beginning of the year: lentils are supposed to turn into money. It may work or not: anyway, lentils must be part of the New Year Eve’s dinner party.
Actually, lentils are tasty and very healthy, so they should be cooked all the year long- they don’t contain any gluten, moreover, they are rich in iron, phosphorous, and group B vitamins.
Lentils are a cure-all for the health of the heart and the metabolism, more broadly because of their high percentage of fibers and the low content of fat. They also have significant anti-oxidant properties, their thiamin content favors the guts, and they even foster concentration and memory.
How many kinds of lentils are there?
Here in Italy we have plenty of lentils, one kind for each color! They may vary according to the growing area, taste, soaking and cooking times, but they are all super toothsome.
- Brown lentils, 4mm wide, are the most common ones. Rich in iron with a strong taste, they fit soup, but also pasta or rice recipes.
- Red lentils are actually orange (and sometimes even yellow). Very small and decorticated, they are faster to cook and a lot easier to digest. Red lentils differ from the other types because of their tender texture which makes them even softer when cooked.
- Green lentils, bigger and green hay colored, have a strong persistent taste. As they never get mushy, they best fit soup. They should be soaked for a few hours before looking.
- Black lentils, very small, glossy, and perfectly round shaped, they may fit plenty of recipes. Their aromatic sweet taste makes black lentils a perfect side for fish, the main ingredients of salad or even a delicate soup. Then don’t need soaking and cook in very short time; in cold water, they are done in twenty minutes.
Yet, what are lentils? Veggies or something like meat?
They definitely belong to the vegetable world, but they can’t be considered sides, at all. Side dishes must contain plenty of fibers and few calories, they must literally increase the volume of the meal in order to make you feel sated. Of course, lentils are rich in fibers, but they provide a quite significant calorie intake, which is higher than that of green salad, fennels, or spinach, for instance.
Are lentils proteins which may replace meat or fish? Definitely not as pulses contain over the 40% of carbs in weight, whereas neither fish not meat contains any traces of carbs.
Whether you are on a low calorie diet or not, they must be mainly considered as protein-based cereals.
Two perfect matchings:
- Pulses with cereals combined with vegetables and shell fruit (walnut, almonds, …) best fit those who want a 100% vegetarian diet (for instance: pasta with lentils sided with green salad and pine-nuts).
- Paired with meat, or fish and vegetables, pulses may replace bread, potatoes, or other carb sources (for instance: peas with cuttlefish and green salad).
Pulses: why do we often forget about them?
Do you eat pulse regularly? Of course, not, because they are considered the responsible for your stomachache. Stomach swelling and gastrointestinal disorders are the main reasons why pulses are too often put aside in every day diet.
Lentils keep their shape thanks to the external fibers which are are not digested in the guts. They ferment, make the intestinal transit faster, so the day after your belly may be aching and bulging, and you have to go to the toilet more often than usual. A few tricks makes lentils and all the other pulses easier to digest. No more trouble.
Yet, another weak point is their long cooking time. Good news: small decorticated lentils don’t need soaking: put them into a pan and start cooking right away.
Make pulses easier to digest
Soak the lentils overnight, they get easier to digest. Anyway, decorticated lentils are light and friendlier to your belly. Pair them with aromatics such as garlic, laurel, cilantro, sage, thyme, chili pepper, or kombu because they make lentil more digestible.
Keep in mind: carefully select the pulses
Impurities may be found in lentil bags: it is quite normal for an organic vegetable-like product. Pour some lentils onto a white plate and look for imputes with your fingers. Transfer them to a strainer and carefully rinse in cold running water. Remove any traces of impurities such as dry peels, small twigs, which float in the water. Rinse again in cold water.
Which is the right serving?
It depends whether you are on a low calorie diet or not. Broadly-speaking, lentils increase in weight and volume when cooked.
- For the women or for those who are on a low-calorie diet- serving: 60g of raw lentils→ 160g of cooked lentils;
- Teenagers and adults- serving: 80g of raw lentils→ 220g of cooked lentils;
- Adults or young people who play sport- serving: 100g of raw lentils→ 270g of cooked lentils;
How can you cook lentils?
- Boil them: put lentils into a pot and cover them with cold water. When cooked, lentils increase by 2,5-3 of their raw volume, so the right quantity of water prevents the lentils from burning. In case lentils soak all the water, before they have done, a little warm water may be added during the cooking. Cook lentil over medium low-heat for 20-40 minutes. Add some aromatics herbs, such as laurel, rosemary, sages, or juniper berries- they make lentils easier to digest. Season with salt only when lentils are done. Remove from the heat and season with a little oil: enjoy them on their own, or use them to make other recipes. They are so scrumptious.
- Cook lentils in the microwave: soaked them overnight, and pour into a microwave safe container. Put the lid on and cook at 500w for 20 minutes. These lentils are very similar to canned lentils: they are ready to be used as you like the best.
- In a pan: soak lentils in plenty of cold water overnight. In a high-sided pan, sautéed a finely chopped onion, celerity, and carrot. After draining and rinsing the lentils well, put them into the pan with the sautéed vegetables and stir carefully. Then pour some broth in the ratio of two volumes of broth, one of lentils. Cook over low heat until all the broth has been absorbed.
Pasta and lentils with laurel and vegetables
- 200 gr pasta (short, or not tog big one)
- 240 gr organic dried lentils
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 small onion
- 2 medium carrots
- 4 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 tbsp triple tomato paste or 2 tbsp of double tomato pasta
- chili pepper
- 4 laurel leaves (opt for adult dark green tough ones, they are more aromatic than younger leaves)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- coarse salt for cooking pasta
- salt and pepper
- Prepare the lentils: rinse them in cold running water to remove any traces of impurities;
- Small and decorticated lentils don’t need soaking, otherwise soak them overnight in plenty of water (they will get easier to digest);
- Prepare the sautéed vegetables: cut the onion, celery and carrot into small dices;
- In a pan, heat the oil with the laurel leaves;
- Add the onion, and then the celery and the carrots. Stir well;
- Sauté over medium-high heat, be careful as the onion mustn’t get too brown;
- Add the tomato paste and then the sauce;
- Cook for a few minutes, let the different flavors combine;
- Then pour the lentils and stir well with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 15 minutes
- Reduce the heat to low and cover with a lid;
- Season with salt, pepper, and chili peppers;
- In another pot bring the water to a rolling boil to cook pasta;
- When the water boils, add a generous handful of coarse salt, then pour pasta and cook according to the package directions;
- Drain pasta al dente and pour it into the lentil sauce;
- Stir well to combine; cook for a couple of minutes over high heat; serve hot. It is ideally paired with some crispy green salad.
How long does this dish keep fresh?
This recipe can be enjoyed both hot or cold, as a sort of summer salad.
It keeps fresh in the fridge up to 2 days; warm it in the microwave or in a pan with little oil.
It can’t be frozen.