Oriecchiette with Lentils, Onions and Spinach


Difficulty level Easy

YIELD Serve 6

Yesterday I did a post for my daughter who requested some legume recipes that she could make at her university apartment. I started out with a bean and cauliflower salad, and hinted that there may be more legumes to come this week. As I have mentioned before, my husband isn't totally keen on lentils, so I've cut back a bit on serving them, but in the interests of Emma's healthy eating, I decided to try a new recipe.

Now I have a confession to make. In an attempt to make lentils more palatable for my husband, I did something I've never done before. I took a totally healthy vegetarian dish and added bacon. Not just any bacon, but some magnificent pancetta that my son brought from the store he works in. It was just a bit, but enough to elevate this dish from nice-tasting to really delicious. If you have trouble getting the carnivore in your family to eat legumes, maybe this is a way to do it. My husband said he'd eat this dish anytime. The other important element to this dish is letting the onions cook slowly until they caramelize.


1/3 cup olive oil
1 oz pancetta (optional)
3 large onions, thinly sliced (2 lb total, 7 cups)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 Turkish or 1/2California bay leaf
1 cup French green lentils
1 lb orecchiette, fusilli, or penne
2 bags baby spinach (5-oz)
1 1/2 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons)


  1. If using pancetta, place in a 12-inch heavy skillet and cook for a couple of minutes over medium-low heat. Add oil and increase heat to moderate until hot but not smoking, then stir in onions, garlic, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Reduce heat to moderately low and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until onions are very tender and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
  2. While onions cook, cover lentils with water by 1 inch in a 1 1/2-2-quart saucepan and boil over moderate heat, covered, until lentils are just tender and most of water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and let stand, covered, until ready to use.
  3. Cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander and return pasta to pot.
  4. Add onions, lentils, and spinach to pasta, then toss with just enough reserved cooking water to wilt spinach and moisten pasta. Add cheese and salt and pepper to taste, tossing to combine.

    From the December 2003 issue of Gourmet

This recipe appears in: Vegetarian

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