Cook the Book: Lentils with Pancetta

[Photographs: Caroline Russock]

The Lentils with Pancetta have been one of my favorite vegetable antipasti at Molto Gusto by Mario Batali and Mark Ladner I had assumed that it was either red wine vinegar or lemon juice but once I took at look at the recipe I realized that the secret ingredient was in fact Dijon mustard.

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Figuring out the secret ingredient and getting your hands on some pancetta and small lentils is the key to this wonderful antipasto. The whole chunk of pancetta lends its wonderful flavor to the lentils and all of the bite of the spicy Dijon mustard is absorbed during the cooking process. Once the lentils are cooked through but not overdone (think of it as al dente) the vegetables are taken out and the pancetta is roughly chopped and added back into the lentils along with olive oil, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

Tempted as you might be to eat these lentils hot, the dish really benefits from an hour or two of resting which allows all of the flavors to really come together.

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Cook the Book: Lentils with Pancetta

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About This Recipe

Yield:6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound small lentils, preferably Castellucio
  • 1 carrot, halved
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 1 celery rib, halved
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 ounces pancetta, in one piece
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Maldon or other flaky sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper

Procedures

  1. 1

    Put the lentils in a medium pot, add water to cover by two inches, and bring to a simmer. Add the vegetables, mustard, and pancetta, reduce the heat, and simmer gently until the lentils are just tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, and transfer to a large bowl.

  2. 2

    Remove the vegetables and pancetta from the lentils; discard the vegetables. Coarsely chop the pancetta and add to the lentils. Add just enough of the reserved cooking liquid to moisten the lentils, then add the oil and season with salt and pepper. Serve, or let stand at room temperature for 1 hour to bring out the flavors. (The lentils can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; bring to room temperature before serving.)

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