Pasta with Lentils
Pasta e Lenticchie


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Pasta with Lentils
Pasta e Lenticchie
cookbook: Lidia's Italy in America
recipe
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serves: about 3 quarts

Legumes are a big part of the culinary tradition in Italy, and they found a place in Italian American homes as well. Almost every Italian American I spoke with wanted to share a memory of his or her favorite lentil dish. Legumes, especially lentils, deliver a lot of flavor, plus nutritional and economical value, and everyone could afford them. The immigrants ate them a lot, and they are still a favorite in Italian American kitchens. Pasta and beans, pasta e fagioli—or, as Italian Americans call it, pasta fazool—is a traditional meatless Italian dish, although it usually refers to white beans, such as cannellini or borlotti. Pasta fazool probably came from Neapolitan immigrants, derived from the Neapolitan word for beans, fazul. The recipe below is a soup consisting of lentils and pasta, but you can turn it into a dry pasta dish instead of a soup by adding only 5 to 6 cups of water. Or even make the lentils as a vegetable dish by eliminating the 4 cups of water and omitting the ditalini. The pancetta is added for flavor, but to make the soup vegetarian, omit the pancetta and start with the onion.
 

Ingredients

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
6 ounces pancetta
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
2 fresh bay leaves
1 cup canned San Marzano whole tomatoes, hand-crushed
2 cups brown lentils, rinsed and drained
8 cups water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
8 ounces ditalini
grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving

Directions

Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into a large Dutch oven and heat over medium heat. Cut the pancetta into ¼-inch strips and add them. Cook until they begin to render fat, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and bay leaves. Cook until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Once it’s thickened, add lentils, water, and the tablespoon of salt. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until lentils are just tender, about 30 minutes. Add the ditalini, and cook, covered, until pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and some grated cheese



This recipe is from Lidia’s newest book, Lidia’s Italy in America, which was released in October.

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