Saturday, February 9, 2013

Rigatoni with Lentils

Among the five things I made last night was Lidia Bastianich's Rigatoni with Lentils. It was my first time making any of her dishes. We haven't had Italian food in awhile and I wanted to make something with the lentils on hand. Since my dad has mentioned that he liked her recipes in the past, I thought it'd be worth trying. It turned out pretty well, especially after adding lots of extra-virgin olive oil and salt. K likened it to a stew, which makes sense, given the tomato base, lentils, carrots, and celery. It's an easy, hearty dish, perfect for vegetarians! And, it's a cheap meal. 

I followed Lidia's recipe for the most part. There were some things I did differently, mainly because I misread the instructions and didn't measure ingredients like oil or salt. Hence, I only noted what I changed intentionally. For example, Lidia tends to add A LOT of butter and cheese. I know this from her PBS show, so I cut down the amount of cheese as it seemed excessive. As always, you're more than welcome to follow the original recipe. To see my amendments, see below.

Rigatoni with Lentils
Yields: 6 servings

1 cup small lentils
⅓ cup carrot, cut in 1/4-inch dice
⅓ cup celery, cut in 1/4-inch dice
2 fresh bay leaves (only had dried on hand)
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling (definitely recommend extra-virgin olive oil)
4 plump garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
½ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
3 cups Italian plum tomatoes, preferably San Marazano (canned), crushed by hand
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 pound rigatoni, or other pasta
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
1 cup 2-3 tablespoons pecorino, freshly grated, plus more for passing

1) Rinse the lentils, and put them in the saucepan with the diced carrot and celery, the bay leaves, and 3 cups cold water.

2) Bring to a boil, cover the pan, and adjust the heat to maintain a gentle, steady simmer.

3) Cook until the lentils are just tender, about 25 minutes (or longer, depending on size).

4) When the lentils are almost cooked, pour the olive oil into the large skillet, and set it over medium–high heat.

5) Scatter in the garlic slices, and cook for a minute or two, until sizzling and starting to color; sprinkle the peperoncino onto the pan bottom to toast as the garlic sizzles.

6) Pour in the crushed tomatoes, slosh out the can with a cup of cold water, pour that into the skillet, stir well, and bring to the boil.

7) Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes or so, just to thicken up a bit.

8) When the lentils are tender, drain first and pour them into the skillet with the tomatoes, season with the salt, stir everything together, and heat the sauce to a bubbling simmer.

9) Cook for 25 minutes or so, until the lentils are quite tender and the sauce has thickened to a consistency you like for dressing pasta.

10) If you're going to cook the pasta right away, keep the sauce at a bare simmer.

*For later use, let it cool, then refrigerate. (If it thickens after cooling, loosen it with pasta water when you reheat it.)

To cook the rigatoni or other pasta:

11) Fill the big pot with salted water, and heat to a rolling boil.

12) Stir in the pasta, and cook it until barely al dente (about 10-12 minutes).

13) Scoop the rigatoni from the water, let drain for a moment, and drop it into the skillet of sauce, simmering over low heat.

14) Toss together for a minute or two, until the rigatoni is evenly dressed and perfectly al dente.

15) Turn off the heat, sprinkle on the chopped parsley and a cup of grated cheese
(2-3 tablespoons was enough for us), and toss well.

16) Finish with a drizzle of olive oil, toss again, and serve immediately in warm bowls, with more cheese at the table (if you desire).

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