Fall has finally arrived in sunny Los Angeles and it’s that slight chill in the air that makes me yearn for warm soups, one pot stews, and hearty pasta dishes. One night a week pasta is on the menu and it was this dish that my eldest son chose for his week night pick. All three of my boys are “required” to pick a meal each week and it is their job to help me prep and cook the entire thing(those that don’t cook are on clean up duty). Eli, being 15, is pretty darn good with the knife and watching him dice the vegetables was a proud moment.

What I love most about this dish is that it has all the elements of a traditional bolognese without the addition of any form of meat. The lentils become the heart of the dish, coupled with spinach for your greens, and Parmesan for your milk, it’s one of those one pot dishes that’s covered all of our four basic food groups. Served with a crusty baguette, a glass of wine (for the adults) and a little something special for dessert, no one walks away from the table hungry or complaining.

Lentil Bolognese
yield: 1 pound of pasta

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
1 small carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh tomato marinara, preferably homemade or a good, jarred sauce (Lidia’s is pretty darn good)
1 (28 oz.) can whole peeled plum tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped (reserve the juice)
2 cups cooked lentils
1 cup fresh, chopped spinach
fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp.kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 pound penne brown rice pasta
grated Parmesan
• bring a large pot of water to a boil. once boiling add salt and the pasta. boil according to package directions. reserve 2 cups of cooking liquid.
• in a large sauepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil.
• add the onion, carrot, and celery, and slowly cook unitl veggies are soft and a bit charred, about 20 minutes.
• add garlic and saute for 1 minute.
• add the marinara and stir to combine. turn up heat and cook until the mixture dries out.
• add the reserved juice and deglaze the pan, reducing the liquid by half.
• stir in the tomatoes, lentils, and 1 cup of stock or water. bring to a boil and add salt and pepper. cook unitl it thickens and warms through.
• right before serving add the chopped spinach and stir to combine.
• once pasta is ready, drain, reserving some of hte cooking liquid – just in case.
• serve the lentils over the pasta. sprinkle with Parmesan and either chopped fresh basil or parsley.

* there is always enough leftovers for lunch the next day!