If the idea of lentils with pasta sounds strange to you, my advice is to cook up a pot and have a taste. All will be revealed once it hits your mouth. You won’t believe what happens when you combine 4-ingredient simmered lentils with easy, 3-ingredient homemade vegan pasta. It’s amazing.
Why lentils with pasta is amazing
This recipe arrived like so many others, out of necessity. I was craving something simple and comforting, but I could not be asked to go shopping. Pretty lame, even for me, considering our local shop is across the street from out flat. We have an ‘everyday’ shopping culture in our neighborhood here in The Hague. Partially driven by our traditionally tiny kitchens and refrigerators I suppose, but our local market is also somewhat of a social hub. Sometimes is a curious experience and sometimes downright maniac. At any rate, I avoid the shopping everyday trap because I always end up with stuff I don’t need.
When ingredients go low, we go creative
On the day I discovered lentils with pasta, I intended to make some kind of lentil sauce and then serve it over pasta. That would have been super – except that part where there was no pasta to be found in the kitchen. Suddenly, I was reminded of those wonderful homemade dumplings from my chickpeas dumpling stew recipe and creativity overtook my lack of ingredients.
Lentils with pasta – it’s amazingly easy
Simplicity is the soul of this lentils with pasta recipe. There is nothing to search for in the spice cabinet for this one. You’ll simply sauté 2 diced onions and add 4 cloves of crushed garlic that is the only base for simmering your lentils in vegetable broth. Seriously, that’s it. My lentils took about 40 minutes to get tender. Like cooking any legume or bean, that time can vary by a few minutes depending on age, your pot and heat.
The difference between green and brown lentils
Obviously, it’s the color. Brown lentils are well, brown and green are well, sort of a greenish brown. They are not the color of green split peas. I made that mistake years ago when I first started cooking lentils. Depending on where you live, you may find brown lentils in more abundance than green and my personal policy is cook what is easily available. I should note for clarity that this is a decision between brown and green lentils. Red lentils are in a class by themselves.
Beyond color, there’s a bit more difference between brown and green lentils, but if you have a choice, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Brown lentils have a more earthy flavor and green lentils have a more distinctive peppery taste.
2. Green lentils have a harder outer skin which means they will take a bit longer to cook (about 10-15 minutes). That shell means they will also retain their shape a bit better than the brown.
3. Both green and brown lentils are high in nutrients including protein (green are slightly higher).
Variations on the color theme
I will caution that comparisons are not always so straightforward. If you check out the supermarket shelves, you may discover that there are varieties within the brown versus green debate. Brown lentils can include more exotic kinds like Beluga or Black lentils and green can include those French (Puy) lentils which can get a bit pricey. For my money, I always keep a bag of standard (basic) green or brown lentils on hand. If I’m making a special recipe such as French lentil soup or loaded tempeh stew, then yep, I’ll spring for something a bit fancier, but so many recipes, like vegan sloppy Joes are wonderful with my standard lentil fare.
Making homemade vegan pasta
If the lentils aren’t easy enough for you, let me introduce my homemade vegan pasta. Flour with a pinch of salt and water. Yep. I used wheat flour, but you can make this to suit (or with whatever you have in the cupboard). Since you only need 1 cup and a bit more for rolling, you can even mix it up a bit to use leftovers from another recipe.
Making pasta, not intimidating
This vegan pasta is super simple to make and once you get it down (which will happen the first time), you can you this idea for other recipes as well. There is no big ‘trick’ to getting it to turn out. Start by mixing the 1 cup of flour with ¼ teaspoon of salt to get it evenly distributed and then mix in ½ cup of water. At this point, I always make sure I have another ½ cup of water handy because I know I’m going to start mixing with my hand. Do this so you can feel how much more water you might need to add. I ended up with another half cup before I had a dough that was not too dry, but that wasn’t so sticky I couldn’t roll it out.
Uniformity not required
Don’t get precious about the presentation of your pasta when you roll and cut it. Just aim to get the pieces relatively the same width and length, but don’t throw out any of the straggly ones. They will cook up just fine and taste amazingly good.
Putting the lentils with pasta process together
Once you get your lentils have simmered to tender, you’ve made the pasta and enjoyed a cup of coffee or perhaps made a quick cucumber salad to go with your main, you are ready to put everything together. This means, dropping the pasta into the lentils. This is fresh pasta, so you don’t need to boil it in a lot of liquid, just add it to the pot. If, for whatever reason, you have very little liquid left before adding the pasta. Throw in half a cup or a cup of water or broth. I’ve not had to do this when making this dish, this is a just-in-case tip.
Add about a quarter of the pasta in at a time. Just enough to cover the top. Gently stir that in and repeat until you have all the pasta mixed in. Avoid stirring too much or too hard. That could make the pasta stick together. Your final step is just mixing in chopped cilantro (coriander). You can also reserve this step and use the cilantro as a garnish. This is helpful if you happen to be feeding someone who doesn’t like the taste of cilantro.
Something amazing happened
When I made this dish the first time, I thought it looked really comforting and it smelled terrific. What I wasn’t prepared for was how delicious it would be. When the pasta meets the simmered lentils the sauce is transformed to an earthy sweet gravy that is seriously amazing. This dish was so good that I found myself thinking (maybe obsessing) about it until I made it again in short order. I can’t exactly explain why a few, simple ingredients make something so wonderful and I don’t really need an explanation – I just want another serving.
Lentils and homemade vegan pasta serves as a another great reminder that amazing doesn’t need to be complicated. What make food memorable isn’t a fancy plate crafted as an art form or muddled with accessories. The memory of amazing food is more subtle and emotional. Pretty dishes are pretty and exotic ingredients are exotic. But it’s taste, mouthfeel, satiation, comfort and how amazing good, healthy food makes us feel is what really counts. Peace.Print