This pasta was inspired by my travels in Umbria, Italy where lentils are a local staple. I was intrigued when I saw jars of “salsa di lenticchie”, which was basically a puree of lentils, olive oil, and salt. I immediately wrote down the idea to create a lentil sauce pasta. I love that this creamy lentil-packed sauce is high in fiber and protein along with vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, and B vitamins.

Cooked lentils get blended up with parmesan, lemon, and oil for a nutrient-dense, protein-packed, creamy, luscious pasta sauce. We’re using half of the cooked lentils in the sauce and the other half we’ll spoon right on top. Top it off with some crunchy nuts and (optional) sausage crumbles for a comforting and nourishing pasta dinner!

Ingredient highlight

Lentils! My favorite small but mighty pulse! They are packed full of protein, fiber, , iron, zinc, potassium, and B vitamins. One half cup of uncooked lentils (or about 1 ¼ cup cooked) contains 24g of protein.

Pre-toppings! So creaaamy.
Topped with crispy sausage crumbles, highly recommend!
Servings 4
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup green or brown lentils (about 2.5 cups cooked)
  • 12 oz pasta of choice*
  • ½ cup (about 2-2.5 oz) finely grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup + 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 3-4 tbsp lemon juice, divided
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 8 oz sausage, cooked (optional, for topping)**
  • Chopped walnuts
  • Chopped parsley or basil (optional)
  • Black pepper
  • *This would also work with a full 16 oz box of pasta if you want to stretch it to feed an extra person. I find with the added lentils and sausage, you need less pasta, so it also depends on that!
  • **I like cooking a little bit of ground sausage on the side to put on top for some extra protein and flavor, but this is optional.

Instructions

  • In a medium pot, add lentils, a few pinches of salt and fill with enough water to cover by 2-inches. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium low to maintain a rapid simmer for about 20 minutes or until lentils are all the way cooked through and beginning to break down a bit (times will vary depending on freshness).
  • Meanwhile, fill a large pot with about 3 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add a few generous pinches of salt along with your pasta. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Reserve at least 1 ½ cups of the pasta cooking water, then drain and transfer back to the pot.
  • To a high-speed blender, add 1 ¼ cup of the cooked lentils and transfer the rest to a medium bowl. To the blender, add the cheese, ¼ cup oil, 2 tablespoons lemon, garlic, ½ teaspoon salt and 1 cup of the pasta water. Blend on high until totally smooth, about 1 minute.
  • In the bowl with the remaining lentils, stir in remaining ½ teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Taste and add more lemon, if you’d like (I like it very lemony!). Set aside.
  • Pour the lentil sauce over the pasta and toss to coat. If the sauce is looking dry or gloppy (this can happen if it sits out too long as well), add more pasta water and keep tossing (or if you run out, just use regular warm or hot tap water). Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve right away and top with a generous spoonful of the reserved lentils, sausage (if using), more parmesan, nuts, herbs, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Items you can prep ahead (optional)

  • Cook 1 cup brown or green lentils
  • Cook sausage, if using
  • Finely grate ½ cup parmesan cheese

Substitutions:

  • To make vegan, substitute parmesan with ⅓ cup of walnuts and add an extra ½ teaspoon of salt to the sauce. 
  • To make gluten-free, use a gluten-free pasta alternative.

Storage:

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Leftovers + Repurposing:

  • Warm up leftovers in the microwave until warmed through, giving it a stir every 30 seconds. To loosen up the sauce, you can stir in a splash of water once it’s warmed up. Top with all the toppings!
  • If you want a less pasta heavy bowl, combine a little bit of pasta with all of the toppings, some greens, maybe a squeeze of lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, and mix it all together.

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