Friday, March 5, 2010

Meatless Friday: Pasta and lentils, together at last. Try it. You'll love it.

Before you click by this post because the word "lentils" scares you, especially in relation to pasta, I beg you to stop and just consider it for a moment because it is out-of-this world delicious. This particular recipe is actually a combination of two: a lentil sauce recipe from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and my own addition of roasted butternut squash and garlic that gets added in right before serving. (That change-up happened because I had a squash that needed to be used and, voila, a new recipe was born.) The result is a dinner that is not only vegan (no meat, dairy, eggs, etc.) but incredibly yummy, with a complex texture and taste even though it's easy to make. So here we go...

3/4 cup of dried brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 carrots, diced
2 medium onions, chopped
1 can of diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 butternut squash, cut in 1-inch cubes (You can find peeled, large-cut squash in the produce section if you don't want to deal with a whole squash)
1 pound of pasta -- ziti, rotelle, rigatoni
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Combine butternut squash, minced garlic and 2 Tbsp olive oil and toss. Spread out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes or until the squash is tender and getting a nice browned color. Set aside.

Meanwhile, combine lentils, carrots, half the onion, and water to cover in a large pot over medium heat. Simmer until lentils are tender but not mushy (about 20 or 30 minutes). Add the tomato, salt and pepper, and marjoram. Stir and continue to cook for about 10 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for pasta. Cook until the pasta is firm. Do NOT let it get cooked all the way through or, heaven forbid, mushy. While the past is cooking, heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a saute pan and cook remaining onions until they are starting to brown. Add butternut squash until heated through.

When pasta is al dente, drain, reserving some pasta liquid. Add pasta to lentil mixture and top with butternut squash/onion combo. Mix and let flavors marry and pasta reach perfection (meaning still al dente but not too tough). Salt and pepper to taste. Add some of the pasta water if it looks too dry.

I cooked this in my favorite Lodge Caribbean-blue enameled cast iron dutch oven (that's it above) and brought the whole dang thing right to the table. No serving bowl needed. This dinner was amazing. Trust me. The lentils add delicious texture to the dish and the squash adds a subtle sweetness. Try it. You'll love it.

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