I'll just come right out and say it: I love lentils.
I think I eat them almost every week of the year: red, yellow, blue, green, brown, beluga, French . . . lentils have a regular spot in my stomach.
This pasta is the most unassuming little dinner that you can knock off in half an hour after work – and have some tasty leftovers for lunch the next day.
It has been on my regular rotation for more than ten years, ever since my friend Leanne whipped out a can of Unico lentils and told me we were making the recipe on the label.
She peeled off the label and I looked at it dubiously: it didn’t look very saucy for a pasta dish. Lentils and onion and parsley and parmesan . . . and, well, nothing. It seemed a bit simple.
But Leanne is a very good cook – and a nutritionist, to boot – so I put a smile on my face and said, “Sounds good!”
And you know what?
It was good.
It is simple, but it works. The earthy lentils highlight the fresh parsley, while the onions provide a buttery base and the parmesan brightens it up. (In fact, it is possible I would like almost any pasta dish smothered in freshly-grated parmesan, but I digress.)
This pasta also has the added bonus of using ingredients we usually have on hand. And did I mention you could make it in 30 minutes?
Thirty minutes! I should enter it in some magazine contest, since magazines are always advertising “meals you can make in minutes.” (I am highly suspicious. Do you notice most of the recipes call for a lot of prep before their clock starts running? Meals in minutes if you have a sous-chef, I suppose. Anyway, this is a true meal in 30 minutes you can make without a sous-chef.)
Unico has long since stopped printing the recipe on the label, so this is my version that has grown up over the last 10 years. Just think: if this recipe were a child, it would be starting Grade 5 this year!
parsley lentil pasta
serves 3 - 4
2 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small to medium onion, minced
19 fl. oz. (540 ml) canned lentils
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
2/3 c. parsley, rinsed and minced
9 oz. (250 g.) uncooked pasta
1 – 2 c. parmesan, grated
Heat frying pan over low heat. Add butter and olive oil. Throw in the onions. Watch that they cook gently without colouring.
In the meantime, boil your pasta in nice salty water. Grate the parmesan and set aside.
After about 9 minutes, when the onions are soft and translucent, add the lentils, salt and pepper to them. You are just heating the lentils here and letting the flavours mix. Taste after 5 minutes to see if everything is hot and if you need more salt and pepper.
Once your pasta is al dente, strain. Add the pasta to the lentil-onion mixture and toss. Heat again if necessary. Taste to make sure you have enough salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley.