Friday, September 13, 2013

VeganMoFo 7: Cherry Tomato Lentil Bolognese Pasta

I went a little crazy at the farmers' market this week and bought a ton of cherry tomatoes.  I was so happy that they were still available even though summer is coming to a close.  Even though I love eating them like grapes, I wanted to cook with them too.  I also had some leftover lentils on hand. Zing! Lentil bolognese sauce sounded fabulous and it's something that I'd never made until now.

Many lentil bolognese recipes include carrots, celery, mushrooms, or zucchini, but I just went with what I had on hand (lots of cherry tomatoes!).  You can't tell by looking at the photo, but I added Swiss chard to the sauce, which instantly disintegrated when I turned the blender on. (Note to self:  Keep the greens out of the blender, unless making a green smoothie)  I think it still turned out great.  It was sweeter than expected since I used cherry tomatoes, but that made this dish even better in my humble opinion. :)

Makes 4 servings

1 cup brown lentils, uncooked and rinsed (or 2 cups cooked)
1 16 oz. box of short pasta (I used whole wheat gemelli)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
3 cups cherry tomatoes, stems removed and rinsed (or store-bought unsalted chopped tomatoes)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Fresh basil, for garnish
  1. Cook the lentils:  Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the lentils and stir.  Boil the lentils for 8-10 minutes or until soft.  When the lentils are done, drain in a colander and set aside.
  2. Cook the pasta:  Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water well and add the pasta. Cook according to the package instructions (8 minutes or so), stirring occasionally. When the pasta is done, drain in a colander.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, chop the garlic and onion.
  4. Set aside a handful of cherry tomatoes for later.  Blend the rest of the cherry tomatoes, tomato paste, and balsamic vinegar in a food processor or blender until smooth.  
  5. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  6. Add the tomato mixture and the cooked lentils and stir. Add the oregano and salt and pepper, to taste.  Sprinkle in some red pepper flakes, if using.  
  7. Add the cherry tomatoes that you set aside earlier.  Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  8. Place some pasta in a bowl.  Scoop some of the lentil sauce over the pasta. Garnish with fresh basil.
This sauce looks eerily like ground beef, doesn't it?  It's definitely very "meaty", but I love that lentils are used instead of a faux meat product. For a kitchen shortcut, you can use pre-cooked lentils (Trader Joe's sells them). And if you use store-bought chopped tomatoes, there's no need to use a blender. Just add the chopped tomatoes as is to the sautéed garlic and onion, along with the tomato paste and balsamic vinegar.  You'll end up with a chunkier sauce that way too.  I only used a blender because I was too lazy to chop 3 cups of tiny cherry tomatoes.  :)

The lovely cherry tomatoes that I used aren't in this photo that I took at my local farmers' market, but they were just as vibrantly colored.  I'll miss seeing them at the farmers' market, but I'm also excited about autumn and the return of persimmons and pumpkin baked goods!  Until we meet again, cherry tomatoes...

Enjoy! :)