Wholewheat Pasta with Lentils and Pancetta (Pasta con lenticchie e pancetta)


One of my favorite cooking blogs in Italian is Primo, non sprecare by Paola. The title can be translated as “First of all, don’t waste anything”. In Paola’s vision this doesn’t only refer to not wasting any food, but also to not wasting any time. Her recipe for pasta with lentils and pancetta certainly falls into that category, as (cheating a little by using lentils that were already cooked), I prepared this tasty and nutritious pasta dish in 15 minutes from start to finish, including taking step-by-step photos. As with many Italian dishes, only a few ingredients are needed to prepare a delicious meal. Paola, ti ringrazio per condividere questa ricetta!

The main thing I changed is that I used wholewheat penne, and that I used relatively less pasta. Traditional Italian pasta dishes always have a lot of pasta and only a bit of sauce or toppings, as most dishes are from the cucina povera (poor man’s kitchen), and people needed to eat more calories as they were working hard. Now we need less calories and we can afford a bit more pancetta and lentils, so without overdoing it I usually change the proportions a bit. I am not a fan of wholewheat spaghetti, as the texture just doesn’t work, but wholewheat penne are pretty good.



For 2 servings

150 grams (5.5 oz) penne pasta, I used wholewheat

240 grams (8 oz) cooked lentils (from a can is fine), or 120 grams (2/3 cup) dry lentils, cooked for 25-30 minutes in ample unsalted water, and drained

60 grams (2 oz) pancetta, diced

1 shallot, minced

1 bay leaf

1 Tbsp extra virgin oil (+ more for drizzling)

salt and freshly ground black pepper



Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the pasta, and set the timer for the time indicated on the package for al dente.


In the meantime, sauté a minced shallot in a tablespoon of olive oil until golden, then add 60 grams of diced pancetta.


Add a bay leaf, and cook until the pancetta is golden but not crispy.


Then add the lentils…


…and stir until the lentils are heated through. Remove the bay leaf and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.


When the timer beeps, drain the pasta but reserve a bit of the pasta cooking water. Add the pasta to the lentils, together with a few tablespoons of the cooking water.


Toss to mix.


Serve on preheated plates. Grated parmigiano is not necessary (but you could add it if you like). I drizzled a bit of delicious Ligurian extra virgin olive oil on my pasta instead.



An appropriate flashback for today’s post is this pasta with swordfish ragù, that can also be prepared in the time it takes to cook the pasta.


9 thoughts on “Wholewheat Pasta with Lentils and Pancetta (Pasta con lenticchie e pancetta)

  1. I love her attitude! Don’t waste food or time! Try quinoa pasta, it’s tootsome and hearty, not bitter as some wheat pastas. You can always add beautiful, small diced, roasted seasonal vegetables to your pasta for your health quotients. 🙂 Your lentils look perfectly cooked and the pancetta rendered to a delicious, crisp finish.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like Paola’s blog: given time I’ll struggle with my poor Italian and try make sense of her writing. Absolutely love this as I largely keep away from anything ‘white’ [rice, flour: hence white pasta etc] and love anything wholemeal. So like your ‘modern’ proportions but do cook my own lentils avoiding all tins possible for health reasons. Thus a happy recipe to copy

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Have never seen lentil served with pasta, Stefan, but this dish sure looks good. We’re in agreement about whole wheat pasta and I’ve avoided it for some time now. I’ve never tried the penne, though, and should follow your lead and give it a try. In any event, with our weather turning frigid now, a hearty pasta dish would help to fend off the cold. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I thought you didn’t like lentils 😉 you know I love lentils and I think this pasta sounds terrific. Not a huge fan of whole wheat anything though… maybe I should try penne. Ok, I lied a little bit there… whole wheat bread…. certain brands.. make pretty tasty breads. Haven’t made whole wheat bread at home yet. take care!

    Liked by 1 person

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