Pasta e lenticchie, like pasta e ceci (chickpeas) and pasta e fagioli (beans), is a staple of Neapolitan cuisine. Traditionally, these dishes have been attributed to the poor, as it was cheap (and still is) to combine pasta with legumes.
But what makes these dishes so unique is how the pasta is cooked with the vegetables and their cooking liquid, rather than in a separate pot of salt water. In doing so, the pasta starch is not lost but instead released into the cooking liquid to create a rich, creamy sauce. In fact, one bite and you may be shocked by the fact that there's no butter in the dish.
Pasta e Lenticchie (Pasta with Lentils)
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour and 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 thyme sprigs
1 fresh bay leaf
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
5 cups water
8 ounces short tubular pasta (such as ziti, trenne or rigatoni)
⅓ cup whole milk
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Grated Parmesan, for serving
1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and carrot, and cook, stirring often until soft but not brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper, and add the lentils, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaf and red pepper flakes. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer with the lid slightly ajar, until the lentils are tender, 40 to 45 minutes.
2. Bring the lentils to a boil and add the pasta and milk. Cook, uncovered, stirring often so that the pasta doesn't stick to the bottom, until the pasta is al dente and the liquid has reduced to a creamy, ragù-like sauce, 10 to 12 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs.
3. Divide the pasta among serving bowls and garnish with the parsley, Parmesan and more olive oil.