Lentil pasta is a nutritious, tasty, and wholesome traditional Italian recipe called pasta e lenticchie (pasta with lentils) made with ditalini pasta cooked in a rich and flavorful stew.
The recipe is healthy and easy to make, with simple pantry staples in one pot.
It’s a perfect main dish for lunch or dinner; it’s kid-friendly and contains all the macros to keep you healthy and satiated. Plus, it’s excellent for meal prep.
Table of Contents
Dietary Note: this recipe is suitable for a vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free diet.
Lentil pasta or pasta e lenticchie is a traditional Italian recipe passed along from generation to generation.
While the recipe is hundreds of years old, 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 because of their nutritious properties and delightful taste.
Lentils are the oldest legumes 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 pasta e lenticchie for a wholesome weeknight dinner in less than three-quarters of an hour.
Ingredients & Substitutions
Quantities are in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
For this lentil pasta recipe, we use regular wheat pasta, not red lentil pasta.
Ditalini pasta is the most traditional 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.
Substitute gluten-free pasta to make this dish gluten-free.
Use dry green lentils or brown lentils. 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. If you have red lentils, make this red lentil soup recipe instead.
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 (soffritto) and a best practice to add flavor to the recipe.
Optionally, you can add some chopped celery to this mix.
Garlic, rosemary, bay leaves
Garlic, rosemary, and optionally bay leaves add even more flavor and aroma to the lentil pasta.
Substitute fresh thyme sprigs, dry oregano, and sage for rosemary and bay leaves.
Tomato paste adds color and a rich, savory flavor (umami), enriching this dish and helping create a more persistent taste.
If you don’t have tomato paste, it’s ok. Add a few more cherry tomatoes.
You can use any small tomato variety, including cherry, plum, and date tomatoes. They add freshness and acidity to the dish.
Substitute a can of crushed tomatoes for cherry tomatoes.
Optionally, add more veggies like chopped kale, spinach, chard, and diced potatoes.
We cook the lentils and the pasta in vegetable broth. We prefer it to chicken broth so that the recipe stays vegetarian and everyone in our family can eat it.
You can use store-bought broth or make it yourself.
Substitute water for vegetable broth.
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.
How to make lentil pasta
1. Start with the flavor base
US cups + grams measurements in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
Gently fry a chopped onion and a carrot with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil for 3 minutes. You can use a large pot, skillet, or dutch oven.
Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, two to three cloves of minced garlic, a sprig of rosemary, and a couple of bay leaves, and fry for two more minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Add the lentils
Add 4 cups of vegetable broth, 10 to 15 halved cherry tomatoes, a cup of dry lentils (rinsed), a teaspoon of salt, and a few twists of black pepper.
Tip: dry lentils don’t require soaking. However, you should rinse dry lentils in a sieve to wash out dirt and ensure no small stones or debris are mixed with the lentils.
Bring a boil on medium-high heat, then lower the heat, and the lentils simmer in the sauce on medium-low heat for about 20 minutes.
They should be almost cooked but still have a bite. Stir occasionally; the lentils will stick to the bottom of the pot if you don’t.
Tip: different lentils have different cooking times, which vary between 20 and 45 minutes. Smaller and flatter lentils cook faster.
Tip: if you want a creamier texture, blend some of the lentils with an immersion blender before proceeding to the next step.
Add 2 cups of ditalini pasta and 1 to 2 cups more vegetable broth at this stage. Simmer the pasta with lentils for 10 to 12 minutes until the pasta is al dente.
Stir often to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the skillet, and add more broth if the pot dries out.
Tip: we recommend undercooking the pasta slightly, especially if you don’t serve the dish immediately. The pasta will keep cooking in the pot with the hot lentils.
3. In goes the pasta
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 with a soupy consistency, 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 in a bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice or 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:
- Simple side salad with crunchy leafy greens
- Roasted cauliflower or air fryer cauliflower
- Green bean salad with creamy mustard dressing
- Fennel and orange salad
- Tomato cucumber salad
- Air fryer zucchini
- Oven roasted broccoli
Pasta with chickpeas
Pasta with chickpeas, also known as pasta e ceci, is an easy, family-friendly Italian recipe that is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
It’s perfect to put on rotation with lentil pasta.
Check out our pasta with chickpea recipe.
Pasta e fagioli
Pasta and fagioli is another comforting traditional Italian meal combining pasta and beans into a flavorful broth with tomato and aromatic herbs.
Check out our pasta e fagioli recipe.
Lentils are good for you: 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.
No need for soaking: dry lentils don’t require soaking, and you can cook them right away. However, we recommend washing them in a sieve with running water to remove dirt.
Cooking times: different lentils have different cooking times, which vary between 20 and 45 minutes. Smaller and flatter lentils cook faster, so we recommend those.
Make ahead: lentil pasta is an excellent meal-prep recipe; you can make it up to 3 – 4 days earlier. If you do so, however, we’d recommend undercooking the pasta so that when you reheat it, it’ll still be nice and al dente.
Refrigerator: 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; 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.
Freezer: you can freeze this recipe, although the pasta will get mushy once thawed and reheated. If you don’t mind, freeze for up to 3 months.
Thaw and reheat: defrost in the fridge overnight or microwave with a thawing function. Reheat in the microwave for a few minutes or in a saucepan with a dash of water.
More lentil recipes
If you are looking to eat more delicious and wholesome lentil recipes, check out our:
- Lentil tabbouleh with parsley and tomatoes.
- Cauliflower lentil salad with Mediterranean-inspired dressing.
- Lentil sweet potato salad with delicious cumin dressing.
- Easy lentil curry: a super easy curry recipe, ready in about 30 minutes!
- Earthy and wholesome lentil soup.
- Our favorite lentil bolognese with a rich and earthy sauce.
More pasta recipes
For some more pasta ideas, check out our:
- Garlic and oil pasta (spaghetti aglio e olio).
- Pasta fagioli with ditalini pasta and the irresistible tomato flavor.
- Eggplant pasta (pasta alla norma).
- Vegan mushroom pasta.
- Creamy butternut squash pasta.
- Easy homemade sweet potato gnocchi.
- Spaghetti pomodoro (pasta al pomodoro).
- One-pot zucchini pasta (real pasta with shredded zucchini).
For many more pasta ideas, check out our pasta category page.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion chopped
- 1 carrot chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 sprig rosemary or thyme
- 2 bay leaves or sage
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup dry lentils green or brown
- 12 cherry tomatoes halved
- 6 cups vegetable broth or more if you want a soupier lentil pasta
- 2 cups ditalini pasta or other short pasta like penne, ditaloni, conchiglie, or rotini
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 twists black pepper
- 1 handful parsley chopped
- Heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large pot. Add 1 onion and 1 carrot (chopped) and fry for 3 minutes.Add 2 cloves garlic (minced), 1 sprig rosemary, 2 bay leaves, 2 tablespoons tomato paste, and fry for 2 more minutes.Stir often.
- Add 4 cups vegetable broth, 1 cup dry lentils (rinsed), 12 cherry tomatoes (halved), 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 twists black pepper.
- Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the lentils are almost cooked but still have a bite. Stir occasionally.Tip: lentils cooking time varies, so taste to check if they are almost done.
- Add in 2 cups ditalini pasta and 2 more cups vegetable broth. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Stir often to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the skillet.
- Turn the heat off and add 1 handful parsley (chopped), give it a final stir, taste, and adjust for salt and consistency.
- You can serve it with a squeeze of lemon or with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.