Lentils with pasta. Sound strange? It did to me, so much so that when I was in Egypt I avoided trying koshari, which is one of their signature dishes, albeit a slightly more working class dish, yet ironically “vegan”–a developing/developed country irony. In Italy, pasta with lentils is a dish for all, but of course, especially in Tuscany. While Italians are great lovers according to an old stereotype, Tuscans are foremost known for their longtime affair with beans. In fact, it isn’t an affair but a marriage, and one that is indestructible. If the Italians can shun some of the world’s best breads, cheeses, sauces, vegetable, seafood and meat dishes for lentils, don’t you think you are missing out on something? If you’ve only had lentils in soup, like most people, it is time to eat them in their solid state where they really shine.
I am strongly partial to oricchette in this recipe because it makes little cups that hold some of the lentils. Spaghetti will not do this, a piece of penne might accidentally have a few hiding in a tunnel, but oricchette will be like tiny cups a cherub is holding for you, full of firm yet delicate little legumes.
Heat 2 tbs of butter in a medium pot. Add 1/2 cup of lentils, stirring, then 4 cloves of crushed garlic and then add 2 cups of chicken broth. Once simmering, cover and reduce heat to low for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile boil water for oricchette and cook according to directions. When finished, drain and toss with a little olive oil. Add lentils when finished cooking and serve with freshly grated parmesan and black pepper, or as is. This is a family and small child friendly recipe, while being satisfying for adults too.