Hearty Lentil Ragu

It is raining outside and I am in the mood for something warm and comforting to the body and soul. I like simple dressed pasta. A favorite of mine is a quick sauce of diced tomatoes with basil and garlic sautéed lightly. However, hearty lentil Ragu piled high over pasta to soak up all the flavor is more appropriate for a cold and cloudy day like today. 

The lentil is a great legume to have stocked in the pantry because of its versatility. There is so much nutritional value that is packed in lentils. They are a good source of iron and magnesium. I would take supplemental magnesium in the past because it showed to support a steady heart rate. I used to suffer from heart palpitations that lead to panic attacks. Although today I try to get as many nutrients from food. When I make this recipe, I will have already cooked lentils earlier in the week. Cooking lentils is easy as washing the dry lentils very well and use the 3 parts water to 1 part lentil ratio. Cook until just about tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them, you don’t want to over-cook and turn the lentils.  

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add Himalayan salt to the water if you prefer. The type of pasta I used today was a curly-cue small lasagna type. I love how this shape will capture all the rich sauce in and around the ridges. To make this dish less fussy, a jarred pasta will be used. A good quality jarred sauce can be made to taste homemade with the addition of a few ingredients. A few secret ingredients I like to keep handy to make food taste slow-cooked are bouillon cubes, pesto sauce, capers, and balsamic vinegar. They give simmering food that extra depth of flavor. 

What makes this recipe hearty, aside from using lentils, is the type of vegetable I used. I have mushrooms (oyster and shitake), carrots, red bell pepper, two stalks of celery, a Mexican squash and fresh parsley. Onions and garlic are great aromatics, but feel free to leave them out if you’re sensitive to them. I will be using them today to add nice additional flavor. 

Chop each vegetable into ¼ inch pieces. Each vegetable chopped will yield about a cup or so. I appreciate seeing all the beautiful colors of each vegetable. I give thanks to the farmers who grew these vegetables that will nourish my body. Feeling gratitude for the food I make prevents me from being wasteful while honoring the process of how these vegetables were created. From the seed that was sown, to the rain that watered the earth, and the sun that shined over the plants.    

Place dry pasta into the pot of boiling water. 

I like cooking soups and sauces in a cast iron dutch oven that I’ve had for many years. The heaviness of the pot distributes heat evenly. Pour all the chopped vegetables into the hot pot over medium heat with a small amount of oil of your choice, or a small amount of water to steam sauté. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the vegetables have reduced to about half the amount. You want the vegetables to lose most of their liquid to avoid too runny of a sauce. Adding salt helps bring out the moisture. Add chopped parsley at this point, or any herb that you prefer. Dried or fresh thyme, basil, or oregano gives this dish a wonderful depth of flavor. 

Next, add your sauce, homemade or store-bought. I used a good quality low sodium marinara sauce. 

At this point, adding in any additional flavor boosters is appropriate. A tablespoon of basil pesto is going to add a little liveliness to the sauce. I use a vegan pesto made of basil, walnuts, nutritional yeast, and olive oil. A teaspoon of balsamic vinegar is also nice to add to give the sauce a simmered all day flavor. Let the sauce simmer and thicken to a rich consistency. Keep an eye out for your pasta and be sure to save some of the pasta water to add to sauce if needed. 

Add about 1-2 cups of lentils, or more if you wish to the sauce once it reaches the consistency you like. Stir lentils gently into the sauce. You only want to heat the lentils through. 

Drain the pasta after it is cooked to your liking. 

Plate the pasta on a dish and pour as much sauce as your heart desires. Sprinkle finely chopped parsley or any other garnish you like. I added capers for a salty pop of flavor. 

Please enjoy this interpretation of a classic Italian comfort dish. Try to cook at home as much as possible and remember to feel gratitude for each bite you take.

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Meet Brenda

Brenda is a holistic health expert that draws from personal experience. She knows firsthand the power of a holistic approach because it helped save his own health! Learn more about her here.

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