A good bowl of pasta is hard to beat. Even in its simplest form – warm noodles tossed with olive oil, Parmesan, salt, and pepper – it feels like an indulgence. With so many exciting food trends and new ingredients, it’s easy to forget about the basics: pasta with red sauce. As a (nearly) lifelong vegetarian, I have mastered the meatless marinara sauce. But a plain pasta with red sauce lacks the protein I need to keep me full, and I try to avoid the sodium-filled processed soy crumbles as much as possible. Enter: lentils, which are quickly becoming my favorite versatile ingredient. With a cup of lentils in the freezer (leftovers from the lentil burgers), I simmered up a hearty sauce with just five – yes FIVE – ingredients. It is so delicious I couldn’t resist pouring it over my baked sweet potato as well! This recipe makes 3-4 large portions of sauce.
1 cup of cooked lentils
1/2 cup of diced carrots
1/2 cup of diced yellow onion
1 8-10 oz container of sliced white mushrooms
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
For seasoning: olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin, crushed red pepper flakes
Cook pasta according to directions and set aside. In a large pot over low to medium heat, add about a tablespoon of olive oil. Dump in the onion and carrot and let simmer for about four minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add in the entire container of sliced mushrooms and simmer for another four to six minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour off most of the excess juice from the tomato can (no need to drain, just tilt the can and get rid of some of the juice) and add in the diced tomatoes. Continue simmering this mixture for another five minutes, then add the lentils. Simmer until the majority of the watery liquid has steamed off, about another 10 to 15 minutes. This is a great time to add any extra seasoning – I stirred in a few shakes of cumin, salt, fresh pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes.
Simmer for three or four more minutes with your spices, then remove from heat. Scoop a portion of pasta into a bowl, add a teaspoon or two of olive oil, and spoon on a generous amount of sauce. Toss things together and (optional) top with shaved Parmesan and cracked pepper.