Lentil pasta or pasta with lentils is a nutritious, tasty, and wholesome Italian recipe (pasta e lenticchie) where the lentils and the pasta are cooked together in one pot.
It's a perfect main dish for lunch or dinner, and the recipe is very easy. In addition, it's kids-friendly and contains all the macros to keep you healthy and satiated.
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Lentil pasta or pasta with lentils is a traditional Italian recipe that has been around for hundreds of years.
And while the recipe might seem a little old-fashioned for some, it could not have been developed any better for modern-day needs, where heart-healthy plant-based foods such as legumes are having a comeback.
Lentils are the oldest legume domesticated by humans and are a nutrition powerhouse. They are an inexpensive way of getting all the nutrients you need to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Combined with pasta, they make a tasty and nutritious meal, especially if, like in this recipe, you cook them together in the same pot.
And because most lentil varieties don't require soaking, you can make most lentil recipes, including this one, for a wholesome weeknights dinner in less than three-quarters of an hour.
Quick nutrition info: One cup (200 grams) of cooked lentils provides a whopping 17 grams of protein, 15 grams of super healthy fiber, and virtually no fat. Included in the price, you'll get plenty of thiamine, niacin, B6 vitamin, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, copper, and manganese.
They burst with phytochemicals that might protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In addition, they contain no cholesterol or saturated fat.
For this lentil pasta recipe, we use regular wheat pasta, not red lentil pasta.
Ditalini pasta is the best pasta shape for this recipe. You can find it in most supermarkets, often from an imported Italian brand like Barilla.
Alternatively, you can use small conchiglie, cavatelli, penne, elbows, or rotini, although that would be less traditional.
Use gluten-free pasta to make this dish gluten-free.
Use dry green and brown lentils. Try to pick a small and flat variety, so they are more delicate, won't require soaking, and cook a little faster.
We don't recommend red lentils for this recipe because they won't keep their shape.
Foodie tip: The most traditional lentil variety used in Italian lentil pasta is "lenticchia di Castelluccio," a small green and brown lentil cultivated around the small town of Castelluccio, on the Appennine Mountains between Umbria and Marche, Italy.
Carrot, onion, olive oil
We make a flavor base with extra virgin olive oil, finely chopped carrots, and onion. That's common in Italian cooking and a best practice for this recipe.
Garlic, rosemary, bay leaves
Garlic, rosemary, and optionally bay leaves add even more flavor and aroma to the lentil pasta. Fresh thyme sprigs and sage are a good alternative to the rosemary-bay leaves combo.
Tomato paste adds color and umami, enriching this dish and helping create a more persistent flavor.
You can use any small tomato variety, including cherry, plum, and date tomatoes. They add freshness and acidity to the dish.
We cook the lentils and the pasta in vegetable broth. You can use store-bought broth or make it yourself.
Salt and pepper
Sea salt or kosher salt for taste and freshly ground black pepper for aroma. You can also add a pinch of chili flakes if you like.
We add fresh parsley at the end, the Italian flat-leaf variety. It adds freshness, and we recommend it. Alternatively, fresh basil fits this dish well.
In a dutch oven or large pot, gently fry finely chopped onion and carrot with olive oil for 3 minutes.
Add tomato paste, minced garlic, rosemary, and bay leaves, and fry for two more minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add 4 cups of vegetable broth, halved cherry tomatoes, rinsed lentils, salt, and black pepper.
Tip: rinse dry lentils in a sieve and ensure there are no small stones or debris mixed with the lentils.
Bring to a boil, then simmer the lentil in the sauce on medium heat for about 20 minutes, until they are almost cooked but still have a bite. Stir occasionally.
Tip: different lentils have different cooking times, which vary between 20 and 45 minutes. Smaller and flatter lentils cook faster.
Add in the ditalini pasta, and if required, some more vegetable broth. Simmer the pasta with lentils for about 10 - 12 minutes, until the pasta is al dente.
Stir often to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the skillet.
Tip: we like to undercook the pasta slightly, especially if you don't serve this dish immediately, because the pasta will keep cooking in the pot with the hot lentils.
When the pasta is cooked, turn the heat off and add the chopped parsley, give it a final stir, taste, and adjust for salt and consistency.
Tip: If you'd like to have pasta with lentils like soup, then add more broth and serve it with a spoon. If you like it denser, like a pasta dish, then simmer until it gets there, and serve it with a fork.
Lentil pasta is a nutritious and fulfilling main dish; a small portion will keep you full for several hours.
You can serve it as is or with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese or vegan parmesan.
We recommend eating it as a main dish for lunch or dinner. You can have it on its own or serve it with a side dish of vegetables or with a simple side salad. Here are some ideas:
Lentil pasta is an excellent meal-prep recipe; you can make it up to 3 - 4 days ahead of time. If you do so, however, we'd recommend undercooking the pasta quite a bit so that when you reheat it, it'll still be nice and al dente.
Also, as you store lentil pasta in the fridge, the pasta and the lentils soak up all the liquids and dry the dish. That's normal; you just have to add some water or broth, stir, and reheat in the microwave or a small pot.
You can store the leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. You can also freeze this recipe, although the pasta will get mushy once thawed and reheated. If you don't mind, go ahead and freeze for up to 6 months.
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- 2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 1 medium carrot finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 sprig rosemary or thyme
- 2 bay leaves or sage
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup lentils green or brown, dry
- 10 cherry tomatoes halved
- 5 - 6 cups vegetable broth
- 2 cups ditalini pasta or other short pasta like penne, ditaloni, conchiglie, or rotini
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 handful parsley finely chopped
- In a dutch oven or large pot, gently fry finely chopped onion and carrot with olive oil for 3 minutes.Add tomato paste, minced garlic, rosemary, and bay leaves, and fry for two more minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add 4 cups (1 liter) vegetable broth, halved cherry tomatoes, rinsed lentils, salt, and black pepper.
- Bring to a boil, then simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are almost cooked but still have a bite. Stir occasionally.
- Add in the ditalini pasta, and if required, some more vegetable broth. Simmer the pasta with lentils for about 10 - 12 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Stir often to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the skillet.
- When the pasta is cooked, turn the heat off and add the chopped parsley, give it a final stir, taste, and adjust for salt and consistency.
- You can serve it as is or with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese or vegan parmesan.