This earthy pulse dish, just made for winter, had my lentil-hating husband reaching for more. It's richly flavoured, easy, fairly quick (no soaking involved), cheap - a dish you can make with tinned tomatoes, or, if you roasted some tomatoes in the glut months, this is the perfect use for them. It uses two of the few herbs which thrive at this time of year - rosemary and sage. And it's the very first lentil dish Lucius really likes.
Your kitchen will fill with the heady scent of rosemary as this cooks. And the water will turn black as squid ink - which, in turn, will colour the pasta brown as wholemeal.
It's based on a recipe by Antonio Carlucci, although I think it is Umbrian cucina povera. This may seem like a small amount for three, but the lentils are filling, and you could feed four with this much, providing you had a salad, or perhaps a pud.
Braised lentils and pasta
for 2 or 3
150g Puy lentils (or ones which hold their shape when cooked)
1 medium onion, cut in half
6 fresh sage leaves
a sprig of rosemary
2 tomatoes, either tinned or slow-roasted (from the summer)
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
Put the lentils into a large pan with the onion and herbs. Cover with two litres of cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently until the lentils are just done, which will take around 15-20 minutes. Add the pasta and cook until done.
Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes and garlic, and heat in olive oil until they are soft. (You need to use a pan which is big enough to take all the pasta and lentils.) It won't take more than a couple of minutes: whichever type of tomato you choose, they are essentially already cooked, and you don't want to burn the garlic otherwise the dish will taste acrid, when what you're looking for is the soft sweetness of gently melted garlic.
Drain the pasta, fish out the onion and the bare stick of rosemary (the needles will have melted into the dish). Add this to the tomato mess, toss, and serve with a little grated parmesan.
Sit still and watch the leaves turn - "Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn." Elizabeth Lawrence. Garden Sprinkles sock pattern by Anne...
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