Pasta and Lentils

Serves 4 (makes about 7 cups).

Note: Although much of the appeal of this Italian dish is its simplicity, seasonal embellishments can be delicious, if untraditional. Consider adding pencil-thin asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces, in spring, or a chopped ripe tomato in summer, added in the last few minutes of cooking. You can also vary the herbs. Because there are so few components, use the best-quality olive oil you can. The dish — technically a thick soup — may be prepared as soupier than pictured; adjust the liquid to suit your taste. The recipe is also easily halved or quartered, although depending on the size of your pot, you may need to use more water. This is best made right before serving, but leftovers can be reheated in a heavy pot over low heat or in a 350-degree oven in a covered casserole. The pasta will have absorbed most of the liquid, so add only enough water to make the dish a little soupy, taste again for seasoning, and stir periodically as it heats through. From Emily Horton.

• 1 c. dried brown lentils

• 6 c. water, or more as needed

• 2 large garlic cloves, minced

• 1 small dried arbol chile pepper, broken into pieces, or 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, or more as needed

• 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving

• 1 1/2 tsp. sea salt, or more as needed

• 12 oz. dried pasta, preferably a small shape such as gnocchette, ditalini, orecchiette or cavatelli; or break spaghetti into 1-in. pieces

• 2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped

Directions

Pour the lentils into a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven and add the water (to cover); bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.

Uncover; stir in the garlic, chile de arbol pieces and the oil, then cover and cook for 5 minutes.

Stir in the salt and the pasta, cover and cook until al dente, stirring regularly to keep the pasta from sticking and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a minimum of bubbling. Depending on the pasta variety, the cooking time may take about 5 minutes longer than indicated on the package, so begin tasting the pasta once the suggested cooking time has elapsed. Continue tasting every minute or two until it is cooked through but still firm. The resulting dish should resemble a thick soup; if the mixture seems too dry, add a little water to reach the desired texture, keeping in mind the pasta will continue to absorb liquid as it cools.

Once the pasta is done, add the thyme. Taste and add more salt, as needed. Cover and let the mixture sit for 2 to 3 minutes, then uncover and drizzle with a little more oil just before serving, if desired.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 590 Fat 17 g Sodium 810 mg

Carbohydrates 92 g Saturated fat 2 g Total sugars 4 g

Protein 21 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 9 g

 

Pasta, Potatoes and Cauliflower

Serves 4 (makes about 6 1/2 cups).

Note: This pasta is a lighter take on a particular style of the classic pasta e patate — a dish of pasta with potatoes that appears in variations throughout Italy — in which the potatoes break down partly or completely into a creamy sauce. Here, cauliflower takes the place of some of the potatoes for a dish that is still hearty but not quite so rib-sticking. The recipe is easily halved or quartered, although depending on the size of your pot, you may need to use more water proportionally. This dish is best made right before serving, but leftovers can be reheated in a heavy pot over low heat or in a 350-degree oven in a covered casserole. The pasta will have absorbed most of the liquid, so add only enough water to make the dish a little soupy, taste again for seasoning, and stir periodically as it heats through. From Emily Horton.

• 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

• 2 large garlic cloves, minced

• 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, or more as needed

• 1/2 small head cauliflower (about 8 oz.), florets and stems cut into bite-size pieces (about 2 c.)

• 8 oz. yellow-fleshed potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, peeled and cut into 1/2-in. chunks

• 5 c. water, plus more as needed

• 1 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt, or more as needed

• 12 oz. dry pasta, preferably a small shape such as gnocchette, ditalini, orecchiette or cavatelli

• 1/3 c. chopped flat-leaf parsley (from 15 to 20 sprigs)

Directions

Heat the oil in a large, heavy, wide-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes; cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until the garlic is golden and fragrant but has not browned. Stir in the cauliflower and potatoes until evenly coated, then cook for 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the water and salt; cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 10 minutes, so the cauliflower softens a bit.

Stir in the pasta; cook until al dente, stirring regularly to keep the pasta from sticking and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a minimum of bubbling. Depending on the pasta variety, the cooking time may take about 5 minutes longer than indicated on the package, so begin tasting the pasta once the suggested cooking time has elapsed. After about 10 minutes, the potatoes and the cauliflower should have begun to fall apart; use the back of a spoon to mash any large bits against the side of the pot to break them apart into the sauce. You can leave as much or little texture as you like.

The resulting dish should be thick; if the mixture seems too dry, add a little water to reach the desired texture, keeping in mind the pasta will continue to absorb liquid as it cools. Once the pasta is cooked through but still firm, add the parsley. Taste and add more salt and/or crushed red pepper flakes, as needed. Cover and let the pasta rest for 2 to 3 minutes before serving.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 500 Fat 16 g Sodium 820 mg

Carbohydrates 75 g Saturated fat 2 g Total sugars 4 g

Protein 13 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 4 g

 

Pasta and Black-Eyed Peas

Serves 4 (makes about 7 cups).

Note: Black-eyed peas, as well as other types of cowpeas, are cooked throughout Italy. They may be prepared simply or combined with other vegetables, rice or pasta. Here, the pasta is added to the peas once they are tender, to cook in the same pot. Celery and parsley brighten the delicate, earthy flavor of the peas, but other herbs can be used instead, such as rosemary or marjoram. The resulting dish may be prepared as soupier than what is pictured; adjust the liquid to suit your taste. The recipe is easily halved or quartered, although depending on the size of your pot, you may need to use more water. The black-eyed peas need to soak for 4 to 8 hours in advance of preparation. From Emily Horton.

• 8 oz. dried black-eyed peas

• 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

• 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped

• 2 garlic cloves, minced

• 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or more as needed

• 10 large sprigs flat-leaf parsley, leaves chopped and stems finely chopped (separately)

• 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. tomato paste

• 5 c. water, or more as needed

• 1 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt, or more as needed

• 12 oz. dry pasta, preferably a small shape such as gnocchette, ditalini, orecchiette or cavatelli

• 1/4 c. celery leaves, chopped

• 1/2 lemon, for serving, optional

Directions

Pour the black-eyed peas into a mixing bowl and cover with cool water by 2 inches. Soak for 4 to 8 hours, then drain and rinse.

Heat the oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the onion; cook for about 5 minutes, or until translucent. Add the garlic, pepper and parsley stems; cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then stir in the tomato paste until evenly distributed. Add the drained black-eyed peas, stirring to incorporate.

Pour in the water, then cover, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and cook for 10 to 20 minutes, until the peas are barely tender.

Add the salt and the pasta, cover and cook until al dente, stirring regularly to keep the pasta from sticking and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a minimum of bubbling. Depending on the pasta variety, the cooking time may take about 5 minutes longer than indicated on the package, so begin tasting the pasta when the suggested cooking time has elapsed, and continue tasting every minute until it is cooked through but still firm.

The resulting dish should resemble a very thick soup, and the sauce should coat the pasta in a thick gloss. If the mixture seems too dry, add a little water to reach the desired texture, keeping in mind the pasta will continue to absorb liquid as it cools. Once the pasta is cooked through but still firm, add the celery and parsley leaves, taste for seasoning, cover and let the pasta rest for 2 to 3 minutes.

Just before serving, add a good squeeze of lemon juice, if desired.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 590 Fat 16 g Sodium 920 mg

Carbohydrates 103 g Saturated fat 2 g Total sugars 6 g

Protein 25 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 17 g