I wanted to share with you over this cold spell a recipe that will keep you warm most certainly but may produce a spell of extra wind! Calling the store cupboard, loud and proud, you’re up!! Straight from the Southern region of Campagna to your family table. This dish echoes ‘Cucina Povera’ cooking, the essence of simplicity, I think this must be a reason why I love this style of cooking so much. This dish is one where I would say pretty much any short pasta shape goes, however I’d recommend pasta mista or broken spaghetti, vermicelli or capellini. The perfect one pot warming dish with scrumptious lentils.  But here if you are as a rule the person that prefers to soak lentils as you have done for years, I urge you to stretch out to a tin of pre-soaked lentils instead. Speed and simplicity are key here especially when you are rustling up a mid-week super.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4

4 tbsp. olive oil

1 small onion, peeled, finely diced

1 stick celery, halved

100g pancetta, chopped roughly

2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed

250g Castelluccio lentils

1 tbsp. tomato puree

1.5 litres water

250g tinned chopped tomatoes

Pinch chilli flakes

Small bunch parsley, finely chopped

Small bunch of basil, torn by hand

Small handful, celery leaves, finely chopped

Salt and pepper to season

Parmesan rind (optional if you have one in the fridge)

400g Pasta mista

70g Parmesan, grated

  1. Into a large pan add 3 tbsps. of olive oil and gently fry off the onion, celery and pancetta. Fry for approx. 10 minutes then add the garlic and cook for a further minute or so.
  2. Sprinkle the lentils into the pan along with the tomato puree and stir.
  3. Pour in the water and tinned tomatoes. Stir and add a pinch of chilli (optional) and half of the fresh herbs and all of the celery leaves. Season with salt, pepper and allow to cook for 40 minutes until tender. At this stage if I have a parmesan rind proudly sitting in my fridge I would drop it into the lentils for the remaining cooking time. I love the flavour that the rind releases even over a short cooking time, this however isn’t essential.
  4. Five minutes before the lentils are ready, add the pasta to the lentils and stir making sure the bottom of the pan is clear and nothing is sticking. If a little more water is required add it now. Cook the pasta until aldente. Remove the halved celery stalk and discard, this was used for flavour only.
  5. Finish with a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Ladle into bowls with a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan. Who gets to nibble the softened Parmesan rind, well that’s up to you.

This recipe was taken from my second cookbook ‘A Passion for Pasta’. Photography by Helen Bailey.