Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lentil Sauce Over Pasta

This is a meal that can easily be cooked for lunch or dinner. It is not only kid-friendly, but hearty enough for company (not to mention just plain healthy!). If you don’t have fresh tomatoes on hand, you can substitute 2 lbs of canned tomatoes (whatever you have – crushed, whole, stewed, etc.). If you have some leeks or jicama, you can dice and toss in with the carrots.

I usually double this recipe. If you make it right after breakfast, it will be ready in plenty of time for lunch.

2 T extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 small onion, chopped
1 large carrot, diced (this adds great color to the dish)
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced (or 2 T garlic powder)
10 large tomatoes, chopped
1-1/2 C water, separated
1-1/2 C green or brown lentils
1 t sea salt
1 t black pepper
1 lb uncooked pasta (not spaghetti or angel hair)
¼ C Parmesan cheese, grated

In a 2 qt. pot, heat the EVOO over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook until soft, but not yet browned. Add the carrots and garlic and cook about 10 or 15 more minutes, or until the onions and carrots are lightly browned.

Increase heat and add ½ C tomatoes and 1 C water. Make sure to use a spatula to stir in the caramelization that may be stuck to the bottom of the pot (for this reason you should NOT use a non-stick pot). Cook until the water is boiling.

Add the lentils, rest of the tomatoes, and ½ C water. Bring back to a boil, cover and reduce heat, stirring occasionally. Cook until the lentils are tender. DO NOT ADD the salt until the lentils are soft as this may slow down (or even stop) the softening process. Allow up to 1 hour for this process (the older the lentils are, the longer they take). Remove the lid and cook to desired thickness.

When the lentils are almost done, cook the pasta according to the directions and drain. Serve individual portions of pasta and ladle the lentils over the top. Sprinkle the grated cheese over each portion.

Timesaving Notes:

From time to time I will cook some pasta al dente, drain, then freeze it. When I want to use it I just pop it in a pot of boiling water for about 60 seconds and it is ready to go.

You may wish to cook the lentils in advance and then warm to serve. If you do this you may need to add a bit more water so it doesn’t become paste-like.


Jenna said...

thx for sharing this yummy and kid friendly meal with us on our recovering picky eater challenge at kid appeal. i look forward to trying this recipe after the holidays. i'm actually on the lookout for more meatless dinners for our family. so glad you told me about the salt, i didn't know that was the key to soft lentils!! where do you get your beet juice? do you add it after pasta is cooked? how much?

Karin said...

Note: Jenna's response regarding beet juice is to my suggestion post on her blog
in the "kid appeal forum") to make the pasta "red" to make it more kid-friendly.
I use beet juice that is drained from a can of beets (it is natural, unlike most purchased food dyes - and adds nutritional value). If the liquid isn't "red" enough, you can toss a beet or two in the blender with the liquid and create "redder" juice. ;-)

I add the juice after the pasta is cooked. I drain the pasta well and add the juice. The pasta soaks up liquids like a sponge. Drain out excess (if any) and add pasta to your dish. Depending on the dish, you can stir in any excess that is drained into the sauce before putting on the pasta.

I don't eat beets often, but really enjoy them when I do. They are also great to add chopped up in coleslaw. It's easy to start "hiding" nutrition in kid-friendly foods once you get going!

I plan on trying them in brownies. They are naturally sweet so I think it will work out well. I just need to find the right combination.