Pasta e lenticchie, or pasta and lentils, is a comforting and inexpensive dish requiring minimal ingredients.  The ultimate pantry pasta, it is comprised of various mismatched, bottom-of-the-box pasta shapes, such as ditalini and broken linguine, lentils, onions, garlic, and a touch of tomato paste.  Satisfying and soul-warming, pasta e lenticchie is perfect for nights where you just want something simple, and cheap. 

Black bowl of pasta with lentils held in hands.

Pasta e lenticchie is a throwback to a simpler time before food delivery services and avocado toast reigned supreme.

If the phrase “waste not, want not” were translated into a meal, it would be this one.

My grandmother and mother would make this often, especially when they wanted to use up the remaining bits of mismatched or broken pasta.

To this day I can still go into my mother’s pantry and find containers of broken spaghetti, linguine, and other shapes.

I know they will all eventually make their way into a bowl of pasta with lentils or zucchini and broken spaghetti soup.

And speaking of “waste not”, this is also the perfect opportunity to squeeze some flavor from your rinds of Parmigiano Reggiano.

I love throwing cheese rinds into dishes, such as pasta e ceci or ribollita.  It adds to the depth of flavor.

Pasta e lenticchie does not equal lentil soup

As you peruse the world wide web, you may come across recipes for pasta e lenticchie that resemble lentil soup.

As much as I adore Italian lentil soup, this is not the same dish.  This is in fact a pasta-forward meal that can be eaten with a fork, rather than slurped with a spoon.

That being said, if you want a soupier consistency, simply add more reserved pasta water at the end.

Ingredients shown: bowl of broken spaghetti and various pasta, lentils, tomato paste, onions, garlic, and parmesan rind.

What type of lentils for pasta with lentils?

I usually have bags of different varieties of lentils in my pantry at all times, especially in the cooler months.

Green lentils and brown to a lesser extent hold their shape better than red or yellow lentils.  Red and yellow are typically used in Indian dishes. They don’t hold their shape too well, but there is no reason why you couldn’t use them here.

I do prefer to use brown or green for pasta e lenticchie.

Those are the color the women in my family have used for this recipe and I’m not about to argue with them!

Brown lentils (earthy flavor) will cook in about 30 minutes, while green (peppery flavor) will take a bit longer.

The goal is to cook the lentils until almost tender.  Just taste test while they’re simmering to get a perfect consistency.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. Begin by dicing 2 medium onions and mincing 2 cloves of garlic.
  2. In a large pot cover the lentils and parmesan (optional – use only if you have one) rind with water. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and bring to a simmer. Cook the lentils until tender (about 30-40 minutes, depending on variety).  Drain the lentils, remove parmesan rind, and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Pasta e lenticchie recipe process shot collage group number one.

  1. Meanwhile, cook pasta until very al dente in salted water (2 tablespoons kosher salt per gallon of water), making sure to reserve pasta water.  Also, coat a large pot or high pan with a 1/4 cup of olive oil and cook the onions over medium-low heat until translucent (about 5 minutes), then add the garlic.
  2. Cook the garlic and onions together for 2 more minutes then add in the tomato paste and stir well.
  3. The tomato paste will break down and flavor the onions as shown in picture 5 below.
  4. Taste test the lentils and adjust salt and pepper if required.

Recipe process shot collage group number two.

  1. Add the lentils to the onions and mix well.  Add in a couple of ladles of pasta water and turn heat to medium.  Cook for 2 minutes.
  2. Finally, add in the al dente pasta, mix well, and cook for 1 more minute.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste then turn off and remove from heat.  Serve in bowls, topped with grated parmesan and a healthy drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil.  Enjoy!

There really is nothing better on a cold night than a bowl of pasta e lenticchie and a glass of red wine!  Pair it with a green salad, or fennel orange salad, and you’re all set!

Hand holding spoonful of pasta e lenticchie.

More pantry pastas

As a busy dad, I love being able to find ways to feed my family with items I’ve already got in the pantry.  It helps save time and money.

Some of my go-to weeknight pantry pasta recipes include:

If you’ve enjoyed this pasta e lenticchie recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and leave a review.

Some people learn by watching.  If you’re that type of person, you can find most of our recipes on YouTube and our Facebook Page.

Pasta e lenticchie

5 from 5 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Total: 50 minutes
Servings: 4
A simple and filling meal made from lentils, mismatched pasta, garlic, onions, tomato paste, and parmesan cheese.

Ingredients 

  • 8 ounces lentils
  • 8 ounces mixed small pasta broken spaghetti, ditalini, small shells, etc
  • 1 small Parmigiano Reggiano rind optional
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • reserved pasta water to thin if required

Instructions 

  • In a large pot cover lentils and parmesan rind with water. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and bring to a simmer. Cook lentils until tender - about 35 minutes. Drain lentils and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  • Meanwhile, cook pasta until very al dente in salted water (2 tablespoons kosher salt per gallon of water). Reserve pasta water.
  • While pasta is cooking, coat a large pot or high pan with olive oil and cook the onions over medium-low heat until translucent (about 5 minutes). Once the onions are soft add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more until lightly golden.
  • Add the tomato paste to the pan and cook for a few minutes stirring well to coat the onions and garlic.
  • Add the lentils to the garlic and onions. Add in a couple of ladles of pasta water and turn heat to medium. Cook for a minute or two then add in the pasta. Let it cook for a minute, stirring well, then taste test. Adjust salt and pepper if required. If too dry add a bit more reserved pasta water.
  • Turn off heat and remove pan from burner. Serve with grated parmesan cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!

Notes

  • Sodium level reflects the use of 2 teaspoons of kosher salt.
  • Any variety of lentils can be used, but brown or green work best.  Cooking time will vary by lentil variety.  Cook lentils until tender but not mushy.
  • Save your parmesan rinds.  They are great for dishes like this.
  • Pasta e lenticchie is normally served quite dry, unlike lentil soup.  If you do want it more on the wet side just add reserved pasta water to desired consistency.
  • Broken pasta is very traditional in dishes like this.  This is a great dish to mix and match.
  • Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the microwave or on a low temp stovetop.

Nutrition

Calories: 496kcal | Carbohydrates: 70.3g | Protein: 21.8g | Fat: 14.6g | Saturated Fat: 2.1g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 1183mg | Potassium: 730mg | Fiber: 18.5g | Sugar: 3.5g | Calcium: 56mg | Iron: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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8 Comments

  1. Cheryl says:

    5 stars
    Made this tonight, and it was delicious, thanks!

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Cheryl, so happy you enjoyed this and thank you for the comment!

  2. Felicia says:

    5 stars
    It’s 1:45am and reading your recipes and I’m crying happy tears of my childhood. I’m 83 and feel my mom and grandma in your cooking . The cooking late at night was my father. He would cook the tripe and with my uncle the lamb heads . Oh such sweet memories. God Bless our Italian heritage. Thank you for bring those to people. God Bless.

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Felicia, thanks for the lovely comment. I’m so happy you’re enjoying the recipes!

  3. Phyllis Peterson says:

    5 stars
    Just discovered your recipes and love them all. They are very much like my mother used to cook. She would put pasta with everything and it was delicious. I am 89 and still cooking. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Phyllis

    1. Jim says:

      Hi Phyllis, thank you for the comment. I’m so happy you’re enjoying the recipes!

  4. Pat says:

    I’ve made this for years but I’ve never used tomato paste. I’m going to try that. That would always be our Wednesday dinner during lent.
    I love all your recipes and have saved quite a few.
    Thanks

    1. Jim says:

      Thank you, Pat! I’m so happy you’re enjoying the recipes! Yes, this is a great one during Lent!