This lentil pasta is a bit of a classic in my family. It's just a simple, homely pasta sauce - a kind of vegetarian spaghetti bolognese - but it just might be the most cooked dish in my kitchen. My mother and sisters all cook variations of it too. There are a few reasons for this I suppose. The main one is that my kids love it. That makes me happy because the lentils provide a good boost of protein and iron. It is also very easy and economical and can be made quickly from a few basic ingredients that I always have in the house. It is low in cholesterol, vegan, and freezes well too.
This is the basic recipe but feel free to add more vegetables. I confess I frequently use this sauce to "hide" vegetables from my children. Bell peppers, mushrooms and carrots are good additions. You'll need to sauté them for a few minutes in the pan with the onion and garlic. And yes, I often whizz the sauce in the blender before I serve it to the kids if the included vegetables are particularly disliked. The resulting smooth amber sauce is very popular, especially topped with grated parmesan or a similar vegetarian cheese.
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 cup/200g of split red lentils
1 400g/14oz can of chopped tomatoes
1½ cups/350mls of water or vegetable stock
2 tablespoons of roughly chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon of dried
salt and pepper
In a saucepan, gently fry the onion in the olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and cinnamon and stir for a minute.
If you want to use extra vegetables, add them now and cook slowly for about 10 minutes. Next add the lentils, tomatoes and water. If you are using dried basil, add this now too.
Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 15 minutes until the lentils are cooked. Stir regularly to stop the lentils from sticking. If you are using fresh basil, stir it in at the last minute when the lentils are cooked.
Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve with spaghetti or your favourite pasta.