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This Italian pasta with lentils is one of the best nourishing meals you can cook using a few cupboard essentials. It’s a simple yet delicious 1-pot recipe, healthy, vegan and amazingly GOOD.
Basically, it’s the supreme example of how to turn basic inexpensive ingredients into a perfect weeknight meal for every family: economical, flavorsome, and full of nutrients.
I’ve been cooking this Italian pasta dish for ages, it has been one of my favorite staples since I was a kid. I love its simplicity, the homey flavor, the thick texture, the fact that it’s so filling, packed with protein, and requires minimal ingredients.
Extra bonus? The day after tastes even better!
What ingredients you need
- Green or brown lentils
- Fresh or canned tomatoes
- Onion & garlic
- Olive oil
- Tomato paste
- Bay leaves
- Salt & pepper
How to make it
- Saute’ onion in olive oil for about 5 minutes
- Add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves and cook another minute
- Stir in lentils, cumin, tomato paste, pepper, and broth
- Cook for about 20-25 minutes or until the lentils are soft
- Add the pasta, salt and cook over low-medium heat
- Cook all in one pot adding a touch of broth or water if needed
- Serve with freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil
- Optional: Also, you can serve it with chopped parsley, chili flakes, and grated parmesan cheese!
RECIPE NOTES & TIPS
First things first, this easy 1-pot recipe makes a healthy balanced meal, costs less than $ 1 per serving and tastes delicious. Lentils are amazing cupboard essentials and buying them in bulk will save you money!
WHY IS THIS PASTA WITH LENTILS SO GOOD?
This pasta with lentils recipe is a must in every Italian family. It looks more like a stew than a pasta dish, and the pasta cooks while the lentil stew simmers. In Italy, this is the way we cook pasta with pulses: slowly, in a broth packed with nutrients and flavor.
In this pasta with lentils, the flavor comes from the sauteed garlic, the onion, the bay leaves, the sweet tomatoes which make the broth richer, and the cumin to add depth of flavor.
To make things even better, don’t skip a drizzle of olive oil and freshly ground pepper when you serve it. You will love it.
The most popular pasta shapes for this recipe are ditali or ditalini (basically what I used in these pictures) or any sort of small resilient pasta like orecchiette or shells are fine. However, often my mother used to break spaghetti into short pieces to make this recipe. That’s another popular variation that works just fine.
ARE LENTILS GOOD FOR YOU?
Yes, lentils are super nutritious, low in fat, and high in minerals and fiber. Plus, they’re a fantastic vegetarian source of protein which makes them an excellent replacement for meat in meals.
To make this pasta with lentils healthier and more nutritious, switch to whole-grain pasta, and you’ll get more natural fiber and micronutrients than white pasta.
DO YOU HAVE TO SOAK LENTILS BEFORE COOKING THEM?
Not really. Because lentils are so small and cook quickly, you don’t need to soak them in advance. They’re done in about 25-30 minutes.
HOW TO STORE PASTA WITH LENTILS LEFTOVERS?
If you have any leftovers, you can store pasta with lentils in the fridge in a tight lid container for 2 days.
The pasta will absorb liquid as it sits and to reheat, add up to 1 cup of water until it’s thinned to the desired consistency, then gently warm over medium-low heat.
MORE ITALIAN PASTA RECIPES?
- Pasta with chickpeas (vegan)
- Pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans)
- Pasta with peas
- Spaghetti with garlic and olive oil (vegan)
- Broccoli pasta with breadcrumbs (vegan)
If you make this delicious pasta with lentils or if you have any questions, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it or tag a photo #theclevermeal on Instagram. I would love to hear from you!
PASTA WITH LENTILS
- 1 ¼ cup dried brown or green lentils, rinsed
- 1 ¼ cup short pasta shapes (ditalini, elbows, orecchiette, mezzi rigatoni...)
- 5 cups vegetable or chicken broth, plus more if needed
- 8 cherry tomatoes, cut into halves (see notes)*
- 1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small-sized onion, diced
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- fine salt, to taste
- 1/8 tsp black pepper, plus more to taste
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute' for 5 minutes.
- Add garlic, tomatoes, bay leaves and stir for a minute (If you use canned tomatoes or only tomato paste rather than fresh tomatoes, add them along with the ingredients listed below).
- Add lentils, cumin, tomato paste, broth, and pepper.
- Increase heat and bring to simmer. Place lid on and turn the heat down to medium-low. Simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until lentils are soft.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning according to your liking (see notes).*
- Add pasta, cook gently over medium heat until al dente. Stir frequently!
- If the stew seems too thick, gradually add a touch of water or broth and thin to desired consistency (note: the longer it sits on the stove, the thicker it will get). Taste, you might want to adjust again the seasoning before serving.
- Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, and grated parmesan cheese if you don't keep it vegan. Also, garnish with chili flakes and chopped parsley for extra flavor if you like. Enjoy!
How many bay leaves? You left them out of the ingredients.
You can use 1 max 2 bay leaves, Abby. x
I’d like to make this with canned beans instead of dried lentils. Would that affect the cook time and liquid amounts?
Hey Francine, yes, but you can follow my recipe for pasta with beans (pasta e fagioli) that uses canned beans, it’s on the website. x
Very good recipe. I didn’t have as many lentils as I thought so my overall pasta:lentil ratio was different, but didn’t seem to make a big difference. I also just used some tomato sauce I had lying around instead of paste/whole tomatoes, which isn’t ideal but it still came out tasting great anyway.
Definitely part of the regular rotation now.
That’s great! Thanks so much for sharing your feedback, Keith! : )