I studied in Italy for a semester of college and lived in a Medieval convent that was converted to an architecture school. It was an incredible experience.. and the food that was served was AMAZING. Italians know how to make pasta, and sauce that just sticks to the noodles. I’d never been able to replicate that creamy, thick quality, especially without dairy, UNTIL NOW! I make this dish as a quick lunch that holds me over for hours.
The key to creamy and sticky sauce is the pasta water! We eat lentil noodles at our house, grains are off the table. Of course, my favorite brand of lentil pasta is no longer made.. there are others. Trader Joe’s makes an organic red lentil pasta that’s pretty good (and much cheaper in store). Tolerant is another brand, some Costco’s cary them.. not ours. They actually make several different types of all bean pasta. Pasta water from traditional noodles will work as well, but lentil noodles are packed with protein.. you should give them a shot!
Lentil Pasta Tricks
Lentil pasta holds up well, especially compared to some other pasta alternatives. I’ve found that I prefer mine boiled for about a minute longer then the directions state. It’s still al dente but not chewy. Make sure to test your noodles as you’re cooking them to get your preferred texture. Also, salt the water with coarse sea salt.
Bring your salted water to a boil. Add the lentil noodles, stirring them occasionally. While your noodles are boiling, roughly chop a handful of fresh spinach. In a small sauté pan, heat up a tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add your spinach to the oil. When it’s about wilted, add a clove of garlic, pressed through a garlic press. Continue sautéing until the garlic is lightly golden.
When your noodles are done, poor 1/2 cup of cooking water into a cup and reserve it for the sauce. Strain the noodles and return them to the pot.
Add about 1/4 cup of pasta cooking water, your sautéed spinach and garlic, and 1/4 tsp of coarse sea salt to the noodles. Heat the mixture over medium low, stirring constantly. As the water evaporates, a thick and creamy sauce will remain. Add a tsp of your favorite Italian spice blend. I like to use Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle, a combination of basil, oregano, thyme, and garlic. A dash of red pepper flakes are a great addition if you like some heat!
Continue to heat and stir until your sauce is thick and creamy. You can always add more pasta water and reduce for more time if you need more sauce. It usually takes me about 1/3 of a cup of cooking water for a serving of pasta, and 1/2 cup of cooking liquid for two servings of pasta.
Because lentil pasta has protein in it, there’s no need to add meat.. but we love these Coleman Organic Chicken and Spinach Sausages that we buy at Costco. They’re a seasonal item, so when we can get them, we eat them frequently.
Add the pasta (and meat, if using) to a bowl and top with fresh cracked pepper and salt to taste. Enjoy!!
Lentil Pasta with Creamy Sautéed Garlic and Spinach SaucePrint Recipe
- 1 cup lentil pasta
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup fresh spinach
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp coarse sea salt plus more for pasta water
- 1 tsp dry Italian seasoning
- dash of red pepper flakes, optional
- salt and peppre to taste
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
Pour your lentil noodles into boiling water, set a timer based off of cooking directions on the pasta box. Stir occasionally.
Roughly chop the fresh spinach.
Heat your olive oil over medium heat in a small sauté pan.
Add your spinach to the heated olive oil, stirring continuously until just over half way wilted.
Add minced garlic to the olive oil and spinach. Sauté until the garlic is golden. Remove from heat.
When your pasta is done to your preference, reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water and strain your pasta. Return the pasta to your pot and put it back on the stove over medium low heat.
Add 1/4 cup pasta water to your noodles. Dump your sautéed spinach and garlic into your noodles.
Add salt, dried Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes.
Stir continuously until the water has evaporated and you're left with a thick, creamy sauce. Add more pasta water as needed for more sauce, reducing to evaporate excess water.
Serve alone or with a meat of choice.
Add salt and coarsely cracked pepper to taste.