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.