Alright, I'll tell you upfront that this ain't pretty, in the conventional sense; I doubt I'll be seeing it on anybody's Instagram feed. But Nigel Slater's lentil bolognaise from his newest cookbook, Eat, makes up for its deficit in the looks department with earthy, sweet, tangy flavor that belies its homely simplicity. Now, I'm not entirely sure about calling it a 'bolognaise.' It's a stew of lentils cooked with carrots and onion and finished with a little crème fraîche and balsamic vinegar. While there is something about the sweetness and the subtle kick from the vinegar that could possibly harken to the tomato-based sauce with which we're all familiar, the similarity is far from overt. That said, I really liked this as a pasta sauce! It hit the right notes, and felt so, so nourishing and rib-sticking.
Why I picked this recipe: The addition of crème fraîche and balsamic sounded like an unusual, lovely addition to basic lentils.
What worked: I loved it! The slow cooking of the onions and carrots before the addition of the lentils enhanced their sweetness, which worked beautifully with the crème fraîche and balsamic and gave the sauce so much more depth than it would otherwise have.
What didn't: The sauce ended up quite thick, and would have turned extremely gloppy as it sat, but ...
Suggested tweaks: ...I added a couple ladles of the pasta water to help thin it out, and it was fine. This was delicious as is, but I think you could have some fun with additions, too. Next time, I'll probably add some mushrooms and herbs, and grate Parmesan on top for extra salty funk.
Reprinted with permission from Eat: The Little Book of Fast Food by Nigel Slater, copyright ©2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.
- 2 carrots
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 onion
- 1 cup (200g) Puy lentils, rinsed if necessary
- 4 cups (1 liter) of vegetable stock
- 10 ounces (300g) pappardelle
- 2 tablespoons of crème fraîche
- 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
Cut 2 carrots into small dice, peeling themif you wish, then leave them to cook overmoderate heat in 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a deep pan. Peel and finely slice an onion, add to the pan, and cook for a good 15 minutes, till the onion is deep gold and the carrots lightly browned.
Add 1 cup (200g) Puy lentils, rinsed if necessary, into the pan, then pour in 4 cups (1 liter) of vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat so the liquid simmers and leave to cook until the lentils are soft—anything from 25 to 40 minutes. Season with salt toward the end of cooking.
Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta and salt it
generously. Cook 10 ounces (300g) pappardelle in it until al dente.
While the pasta cooks, remove half the lentils and their liquid and
process to a coarse puree in a blender or food processor. Return them to
the pan and stir. Mix in 2 tablespoons of crème fraîche and a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and check the seasoning. Bring almost to a boil.
Drain the pasta, divide among warm bowls, then spoon over the