Sicilian Inspired Lentil Ragu and Pasta

Lentils are a great source of protein and carbohydrates, they also provide a good source of Iron, B-vitamins, phosphorous and calcium and are a great alternative to meat.

There are many varieties, Puy lentils, red split lentils, yellow lentils green and brown lentils. You can use them for salads, curries, casseroles, and soups and here we use them for a twist on a traditional ragu. The addition of tomatoes (and some ‘hidden veg’, great for any fussy eaters) add Vitamins C, K and E.

Mushrooms add their distinctive earthy flavour as well B vitamins and the powerful antioxidant selenium, which helps to support the immune system and prevent damage to cells and tissues.

Ingredients

200g lentils – you can use any colour, dried or canned. Dried will need a little longer to cook, and puy, green or brown will give a ‘meatier’ texture.
1 tin of chopped tomatoes, or 500g of passata – both packed full of vitamins, the passata will give a richer flavor but both work equally well
1 red onion – or brown will be fine
1tbsp olive oil – or any vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic – or 1 tsp garlic paste
3 sticks of celery – finely sliced or grated – the smaller the better to keep any fussy eaters happy
2 carrots – as above for celery
200g mushrooms – a mixture of woodland mushrooms is delicious but button or chestnut are fine
8 cherry tomatoes – not essential, but they add their own touch of sweetness
2 tbsp tomato puree – if you don’t have this, add a little dash of tomato ketchup
½ glass of red wine – to add depth of flavor but not essential
1tsp each of dried oregano and thyme – or if you are lucky enough to have fresh growing in your garden, a handful of each, finely chopped
Black pepper, salt

To serve

200g pasta – with spaghetti this will make a mean spag bog, with tagliatelle it’s perfect or any dried or fresh pasta cooked according to the packet instructions, and don’t forget to use whole wheat pasta which has nothing removed doing processing and contains more fibre and micronutrients than white.
2 tbsp grated parmesan – optional but delicious

Method

  • Finely slice the onion, add to a large pan with the olive oil and fry gently until translucent and just beginning to caramelise
  • Add the crushed garlic, the celery, carrots, lentils, chopped tomatoes or passata, and cherry tomatoes together with the tomato puree, wine and herbs. Stir well , cover and bring to a simmer.
  • Cook for 20 – 40 minutes depending on your lentils – check the packet or tin – the longer the cooking the softer the lentils will be, and the more intense the flavour. Season with black pepper and a little salt to taste
  • Stir occasionally, and if it is looking too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of water (or wine!)
  • Serve, tossed with the cooked pasta, sprinkled with the parmesan – simple, delicious and a fantastic nutrient packed meal.

Add a bowl of mixed green salad leaves tossed with balsamic vinegar mixed with a little olive oil, top with a few shavings of pecorino and this is a fab kitchen supper to enjoy with friends and family. A small glass of red wine would go down a treat for the grown-ups… but only the one!

You can play around with the basic recipe depending what you have in the cupboard – try a splash of Worcestershire Sauce or balsamic glaze, add a finely chopped (or grated to increase the ‘hidden veg’) aubergine, red pepper and courgette to make it go further and increase the vitamin burst. Try a with a few torn basil leaves on top before serving…. Buon appetito!

2020 © Boutros Bear

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