Pasta Lentica

Meat-Believe Lentils Crowded into Marinara

I’m excited to post this recipe I’ve been making for a quarter century. If you are familiar with the Northern Italian bolognese sauce—a thick sauce of ground meats—you will find parallel grandeur in this vegetarian version.

Lentils offer a meaty-peppery bean that truly satisfies. I love them as they require no soaking time.

Although the ingredient list looks formative, the dish comes together quickly. Lentica freezes well.


INGREDIENTS: Instead of celery try fennel bulb; I love its licorice undertones

  • pasta – 1 LB, rigatoni, penne, or shells
  • olive oil – 2 TBS
  • onion – 1 medium, thinly sliced
  • garlic – 2 tsp, [2 cloves], chopped
  • celery – 2 ribs, [or fennel bulb], thin slices
  • mushrooms – 2 cups, sliced
  • spinach, baby – 2 cups, packed
  • anise seed – 2 tsp, or fennel seed, ground
  • red pepper flakes – 1/2 tsp or to taste
  • salt – 1 tsp
  • pepper – 1/2 tsp
  • burgundy – 1/2 cup, or other full bodied red. I prefer “hearty burgundy”
  • lentils – 2 cups, rinsed
  • water – to cover beans by 2 inches
  • marinara sauce – 2 cups, I use prepared
  • parsley – 1/2 cup, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese – 1/2 cup; plus more to serve at table

Lentils are a great meat-believe protein


  1. Cook the pasta according to package instructions making sure to use heavily salted water to season the pasta
  2. In a medium-sized pot sauté the onion, garlic, and celery for a few minutes in the olive oil, then add in the mushrooms and cook a few minutes longer
  3. Add the rinsed lentils and enough water to cover the beans by 2-inches
  4. Bring to a boil, then simmer partially covered until beans are tender, about 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally
  5. When lentils are tender, drain and reserve the cooking water, and a half cup of beans. This will be used for another recipe, and I might add a very special soup! Recipe below.
  6. Add the marinara sauce, spinach, burgundy, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper and cook on low for about 10 minutes
  7. Option 1: Add the cooked pasta and continue to cook to heat through. Alternately, ladle the sauce over hot pasta just before serving
  8. Off heat, add the parmesan, adjust the seasoning, top with parsley
  9. Serve with parmesan at the table
Pasta Lentica served over rigatoni


This is the essence of my Renewal Cooking classes. Take something cooked and renew it. My notes show I crafted this soup in 2001

Curry Lentil Soup with Romaine

  • From step 5 to a pot add the 1/2 cup of reserved cooked lentils and the drained cooking water [aka pot liquor]
  • Add a handful of chopped romaine lettuce leaves, sliced button mushrooms, curry powder, cumin powder, minced rosemary, salt & pepper to taste. Cook for 10 minutes or so until the mushrooms are soft. Thin the soup with vegetable stock or water to desired consistency.
  • Should you have a sweet vegetable, like cooked winter squash, or yams, dice them and add to the soup along with a tsp of balsamic vinegar.
  • Serve with parmesan

– © Recipes by B. Hettig

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