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Pasta and lentils are the perfect Mediterranean food meaning healthy and delicious; this is a dish fit for vegans and vegetarians. You must taste it to believe it!
A dish I have created completely from scratch, this simple food works perfectly well in Italy as it reflects our simple traditions. It can be made in a short time and even shorter time if you use pre-cooked lentils. If you are trying to save time but eat healthily, this is the dish for you.
In Italy, lentils make the perfect New Year Eve’s dinner
In Italy, lentils are ritually consumed on New Year’s Eve as they are believed to bring good luck and money. Eating lentils on New Year’s Eve to achieve prosperity dates back to Roman times. We have the tradition of giving those we love a bag of lentils at the beginning of the year because lentils are supposed to turn into money. Thus, lentils are usually a part of a traditional New Year Eve’s dinner party.
Truth be told, lentils are tasty and very healthy, so they should be cooked all year long. Not only are they gluten-free with significant antioxidant properties, but they also have a high percentage of fiber and a low percentage of fat.
How many kinds of lentils are there?
Here in Italy, we have plenty of lentils of different colors. They may vary according to where they are grown, their taste, soaking, and cooking times, but they are all super delicious.
- Brown lentils are the most common. They fit soup as well as pasta or rice recipes.
- Red lentils are actually orange and sometimes even yellow. 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 olive green in color, have a strong persistent taste. Since they never get mushy, they go well in soup. They should be soaked for a few hours before cooking.
- Black lentils, very small, glossy, and perfectly round shaped, they fit plenty of recipes. Their aromatic flavor makes black lentils a perfect side for fish, salad, or even soup. Then don’t need soaking and cook in a very short time, done in twenty minutes.
Soak them for easier digestion
If you soak the lentils overnight, they get easier to digest. Pair them with herbs such as garlic, bay leaves, cilantro, sage, thyme, chili pepper, or kombu, wakame seaweed, because they make lentils more digestible.
How can you cook lentils?
- Boil them: put lentils into a pot and cover them with cold water. When cooked, lentils increase by 2-3 times their raw volume, so enough water prevents the lentils from burning. In case the lentils soak up all the water before they are finished, a little warm water may be added during the cooking process. Cook lentils over medium-low heat for 20-40 minutes. Add some herbs, such as bay leaves, rosemary, or sage. Add wakame seaweed to make the lentils easier to digest. Season with salt but only when the lentils are done. Remove them from the heat and season with a little oil: enjoy them on their own or use them to make other recipes. They are scrumptious.
- Cook lentils in the microwave: soak them overnight and place them in a microwave-safe container. Put a lid on and cook on high for 20 minutes.
- In a pan: soak lentils in plenty of cold water overnight. In a pot, sauté a finely chopped onion, celerity, and carrot. After draining and rinsing the lentils well, put them in a pot with the sautéed vegetables and stir carefully. Then pour in some broth (2:1 broth to lentil ratio). Cook over low heat until all the broth has been absorbed.
- If using canned lentils, rinse them well. This helps reduce the amount of indigestible carbohydrates, which are released into the water. As an added bonus, rinsing also helps remove any excess sodium.
Pasta and lentils with laurel and vegetables
- 1½ cup of pasta (short, like elbow macaroni, shells) (200g)
- 1¼ cup of dried organic lentils (240g)
- 1 stalk of celery
- 1 small onion
- 2 medium carrots
- 4 tbsp of tomato sauce
- 1 tbsp of tomato paste
- Red pepper flakes
- 4 bay leaves
- 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
- Coarse salt
- Salt and pepper
- Prepare the lentils: rinse them in cold running water to remove impurities;
- Soak them overnight in plenty of water (they are easier to digest);
- Prepare the sautéed vegetables: cut the onion, celery, and carrot into small pieces;
- In a pan, heat the oil along with the bay leaves;
- Add the onion, the celery, and then the carrots and stir well;
- Sauté over medium-high heat; be careful as the onion shouldn’t get too brown;
- Add the tomato paste and then the sauce;
- Cook for a few minutes allowing the flavors to meld together;
- Add 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 red pepper flakes;
- In another pot bring the water to a rolling boil;
- When the water boils, add a generous handful of coarse salt; then add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions;
- Drain the pasta and add it into the lentil sauce;
- Stir well to combine, cook for a couple of minutes over high heat, and serve hot. It is ideally paired with a crisp green salad.
How long does this dish keep fresh?
This recipe can be eaten both hot or cold like a summer salad.
It keeps fresh in the fridge for up to 2 days; warm it in the microwave or in a frying pan with a little oil. It shouldn’t be frozen.