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Monday Menu: Lentils and Sausage with Pasta

January 5, 2009

lentils-n-sausage-w-pasta

Mmmmmmm, lentils!  So yummy and good for you, and they don’t take all that long to cook like other dried beans or legumes.  This is a recipe that I made up on my own… which is not to say that it’s any sort of culinary breakthrough or anything. It’s one of my favorites, very filling and tasty.

[I’m not going to give amounts for this recipe so much as just tell you how I make it. This is one of those recipes where you can tweak just about anything in it to your taste.]

*Make sure you have a large covered frying pan, or maybe a dutch oven.

Start with a beef smoked sausage... you know the ones that are shrink wrapped in a big awkward U shape?  I buy Hillshire Farms brand. Now, you could say that you don’t eat beef and you could buy another kind of sausage. You could try turkey sausage or pork sausage or I’m-not-sure-what-meats-are-in-here sausage. But I’m telling you, beef tastes the best and you can live with a little fat. Also, I went for  jog this morning, how about you?

Now, take the sausage out of the shrink wrap and grab your 9″ chef knife and… ladies, please contain your laughter. I’m just saying. It’s really not that funny but… you’ll know what I mean. ANYWAY… cut up the sausage into bite size slices or smaller bits, and fry it up in a pan so that it gets nice and brown and starts to render down a bit. Remove the cooked sausage and let it drain on paper towels. This will give you time to get rid of the fat in the pan and maybe even clean it up a bit if things got too brown in there. I usually like to start the next step with a clean pan.

Return the pan to the burner and add in a little olive or canola oil. Add some chopped onions and celery and sautée a bit until it’s nice and soft… then throw in 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic (minced) and let it cook up a bit as well. You don’t want the garlic to get brown, though. Because everyone on the Food Network says that that is BAD.

Now, add your lentils to the pan. Maybe a one-pound bag of dried lentils? Something like that. I like to add them to the veggies in the pan and stir them around a bit. I pretend that this is a special secret method that gives the dish all its special flavor, but honestly it probably doesn’t make a difference how you do it. The main thing is, add the lentils and then add water, chicken broth, or a combination of the two. Be sure to add enough liquid to cover the lentils well (you may add more later on) and give everything a stir and then cover it and let it simmer a while. Lentils usually cook in 30-40 minutes I think. I let it get bubbling and then I check it now and then and add more liquid if it looks like it’s drying out. This is not rocket science. It’s lentil science.

Be sure to season with salt and pepper as you go along, according to your family’s tastes. I use kosher salt because Alton Brown says kosher salt is cool, and I want to be cool.

While the lentils are cooking, you can cook up your pasta. Here again is a critical point: the best tasting pasta on the planet is “Barilla Plus.”  It’s tasty AND has extra fiber and omega-3s or other things that will make you live for 100 years… so, go get that brand. You can thank me later. It’s delicious.  Use your favorite pasta shape here… it’s your party! But I recommend either penne (shown above) or angel hair. I cook up the pasta, drain it, then put it back in the pot and toss it with a little olive oil, and some parsley flakes. The olive oil gives it a little flavor. The parsley flakes make people think you are fancy.

To serve it up, just dole out a portion of pasta, put the lentil-sausage mixture on top, and add a bit of parmesan. The shredded kind is best but for the photo above, all I had at the time was the stuff from the shaker. It still tastes good!

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