Lentils along with other legumes are a vegetarians best friend. They accompany practically anything and can be used in a side dish, main dish, salad – they are sure to satisfy. I love the ability to use it in numerous ways across many cuisines. I had to think long and hard about how to introduce my creative side into a lentil dish and I know I came up with a winning introduction. Let’s start with a few facts about the beloved lentil.
Lentils have a long shelf life, low cost, and excellent nutritional content. They are low in sodium and cholesterol and high in beneficial nutrients such as thiamin, phosphorous, copper, vitamin C, folate, iron, manganese, and dietary fiber.
There are also a wide variety of lentils – brown, yellow, red, black, green, and French green, with just slight differences in nutritional benefits.
I call this dish Lentil Ragu because a typical meat-based Ragu is comprised of at least two different meats, generally beef and pork or veal, and sometimes a little pancetta is added to the combo. This lentil dish features three of the most common lentils – brown, green and black. I’m using these three together because they are sprouted lentils. The benefits of the sprouting process results in increased vitamins and minerals being retained. It also reduces the cooking time tremendously. If you cannot find sprouted or choose not to use sprouted then use brown and black lentils. They can be easily found in the grocery store, they have the same cooking time of approximately 30 minutes, and they maintain their firmness and shape after cooking. Red lentils are easy to find but they soften quite a bit and are better utilized in a curry or soup; Green lentils maintain their firmness and shape but take longer to cook, in upwards of 45 minutes.
I love the smokiness of the fire roasted tomatoes in this dish, the sweetness of the shallots, the freshness of the basil, and the mild heat of the red pepper flakes. And the red wine could only result in a good thing! The richness in flavor and color it adds is beautiful. The aroma is enticing. I included goat cheese as optional so this would be vegan friendly but I must say that if you can add a sprinkle of goat cheese it’s mild enough to balance the other robust flavors and adds just a touch of creaminess. Lastly, combining the lentils with shitake mushrooms really makes this a hearty main dish or as a side dish with other proteins and vegetables. I paired it with whole wheat spaghetti but I would also consider it over polenta.
Feed the wellness in you!
The cooking process for the sauce (without the lentils) should be long and slow because it takes time for the red wine to absorb into the sauce. Use a slow cooker for an even better result and cook for 4 hours.
- 1 cup of sprouted lentil trio (Try Whole Foods for the 'Accent' brand)
- 1 small shallot, chopped
- 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 tbl of olive oil
- 2 tbl of tomato paste
- 1 cup of sliced shitake mushrooms
- 2.5 cans of fire roasted tomatoes (14.5 ounce cans)
- 1-2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 cup of red wine
- Chopped fresh basil
- Whole Wheat Spaghetti
- 2 tbl of Goat cheese per serving (optional)
- Sautee the garlic, shallots and shitake mushrooms in olive oil for 5 minutes.
- Add the 2.5 cans of fire roasted tomatoes, 2 tbl of tomato paste, sea salt, red pepper flakes and cook on low heat for 10 minutes.
- Fold in the cup of red wine and cook on low heat for 1 1/2 hrs.
- Cook 1 cup of lentils in vegetable stock.
- Add the lentils to the other ingredients after they have fully blended at the end of the 1 1/2 hours.
- Turn off and let sit until ready to serve.
- In another pan add one serving of cooked spaghetti and blend the lentil ragu generously.
- Serve with a sprinkle of chopped basil on top as shown in the picture, and individually plate.
- The goat cheese is optional but highly recommended!