'Twas the week after a week of holiday parties, and all through the house, nobody felt like standing over the stove, not one single person, and especially not me. And yet, people needed to eat. The pantry presented all sorts of possibilities, and before I knew it, I'd thrown together lentils and pasta and olives and feta. What evolved was this Greek-inspired pasta dish with enough protein and heft to satisfy vegetarians and meat lovers alike. Lentil sauces for pasta are more common than you'd imagine, and tossing a handful of lentils into a traditional marinara boosts the nutritional value by adding plenty of fiber. I pulled the sauce off the heat before the lentils collapsed, because I love the more rustic texture, but you can let them cook a few minutes longer and watch them melt into the tomato sauce. Opa!
Whole wheat penne pasta with Greek red lentil, feta and olive sauce
Serves 8; can be multiplied. Omit the cheese for vegan; use rice pasta for gluten-free.
1 13-oz box whole wheat penne (or other whole wheat pasta, or any dried pasta)
2 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry red lentils
2 cups canned chopped tomato (I like Pomi)
1-1/2 tsp Greek seasoning (I like this one from The Spice House)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or thyme leaves, or a mix
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, or more to taste
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, as needed
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional)
Add 6 quarts of water to a stock pot, and bring it to a boil on the stove. Stir in the pasta, and cook according to package directions. When the pasta is cooked, drain (do not rinse), and set aside.
At the same time, begin the sauce.
In a large, nonstick sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion and zucchini for 2 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Then, add the garlic, and cook for 30 seconds.
Dump in the lentils along with 3 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover, and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the lentils have softened slightly. If the lentils are sticking, add a small amount of water, 1/4 cup or so.
Stir in the tomato, Greek seasoning, herbs, lemon zest and olives. continue to simmer, covered, for 5-10 minutes, until the lentils are completely cooked but have not begun to fall apart. Add the feta, and continue cooking for a minute or two to warm the cheese. Taste, and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, if needed.
(At this point, you can refrigerate the sauce and pasta separately if making in advance.)
Combine the pasta and sauce, and top with parmesan cheese.
More meatless main dish pasta recipes:
Pasta with roasted garlic and red pepper pesto
Pasta with peas and parsley-walnut pesto
Lighter vegetarian lasagne
Slow-roasted tomato macaroni and cheese
Broccoli, basil and pasta salad
Other recipes that use these ingredients:
Hearty lentil kale pasta, from The Wind Attack
Pasta salad with lentils, cherry tomatoes and chick peas, from Jenni Field's Pastry Chef Online
Red lentil soup with pasta, from Nummy Kitchen
Morel and lentil carbonara pasta, from The Well-Seasoned Cook
Pasta with lentils, tomatoes and arugula, from Chick in the Kitchen
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