Pasta e Lenticchie
I’m still trying to clean out the pantry, and a pasta e lenticchie or a pasta e fagioli is one of the best ways to do that. Any pantry always has sacks of dried beans or lentils, half-full boxes of pasta and cans of tomatoes, or at least my pantries have always had these staples. I love these types of pastas, the first time I had them when I was an exchange student in the provincia di Matera, I was sold, and I was a fairly picky eater at that time. The pasta absorbed all of the flavors of the beans and was this sticky glob of deliciousness. I grew up on red beans and rice and a dozen other creative ways to eat a bean, so pasta e fagioli immediately become comfort food for me, as it is comfort food for my husband and most Italians.
This is actually the first time I have ever made pasta e lenticchie, my husband has made it for me a number of times, but I never took the reigns and tried it myself. I used my trusty Neapolitan cookbook Naples at Table, Cooking in Campania by Arthur Schwartz to guide me. Important for proportions, I have to add, I have made pasta e fagioli dozens of times where I haven’t measured out the pasta and it was 10 pieces of pasta to every bean, no good. This was a perfect balance.
I want to add for those of you who are going to try this recipe, this isn’t a soup by any means. It is meant to be very dry, so you have to do a lot of stirring or it will all stick to the bottom of your pot. Italians also love to eat this cold.
Pasta e Lenticchie from Naples at Table, Cooking in Campania by Arthur Schwartz
- 5 cups water
- ¾ cup lentils
- 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup chopped canned plum tomatoes, with some juice
- 2 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp hot red pepper flakes
- ½ lb thin spaghetti
- 2 rounded tbsp chopped parsley
In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a rolling boil, add the lentils, and cook, covered over medium-high heat, until nearly but not entirely tender, about 20 minutes.
Add the garlic, the olive oil, the tomatoes, the salt, and the pepper. Reduce the heat, cover, and continue to simmer briskly for another 10 minutes, stirring a few times, or until lentils are fully tender.
Break spaghetti into 2- to 4-inch pieces and add them to the lentils. Cook, covered, at a steady simmer, stirring several times and scraping the bottom of the pot when you do. Cook until the pasta is just done, stirring more frequently as it gets closer to that point.
When the pasta is cooked to taste, remove pot from the heat, stir in the parsley, cover the pot, and let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Serve hot, passing hot pepper oil or the best-quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling on top.