You’ve heard that old expression, necessity is the mother of invention, right? Well, never is that more true than in the kitchen.
I’ve been on a little bit of a health kick lately (these and these notwithstanding…), and I thought this healthy, vegan lentil marinara would fit into my plans perfectly. However, when I went to snap a picture of it for the bloggy blog, I sighed audibly in frustration — lentils may be inexpensive, vegetarian sources of protein and fiber, but they’re one of the least attractive/photogenic foods on earth. I mean…if you were set up on a blind date with lentils, you’d probably wind up telling your friends that lentils had a “great personality.” Ugh.
In an attempt to get even a quasi-decent picture, I decided my lentils needed a little more color, so I figured I’d chop up some basil leaves to toss on there. Problem: no basil in the fridge. However, I did find a bunch of fresh mint leaves in there, so I thought — why not? Good enough for pictures, anyway.
Well after I snapped a few pictures, I actually sat down and tried it with the mint — and it totally, totally worked. Is this a thing? And I’ve just never heard of it? Have people been eating mint on Italian-y, marinara-y dishes all this time? Either way, I couldn’t believe how much I liked the mint on the dish.
LENTIL MARINARA WITH WHOLE WHEAT SPAGHETTI AND MINT (barely adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 white onion, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (adjust depending on heat preferences)
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 cup white or red wine (can sub veggie or chicken broth)
2 28-oz cans whole tomatoes, coarsely chopped, including sauce
8 oz brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
3 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 16-oz package whole wheat spaghetti, cooked to al dente
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, cut in a chiffonade
1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in large stockpot. Add onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion just starts to brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
2. Add wine, scraping any browned residue on the bottom of the pan. Increase heat to medium-high and add oregano, tomatoes, lentils, water, and salt. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes (or longer if possible), until lentils are tender and sauce is thickened.
3. Serve lentil marinara over whole wheat spaghetti. Garnish with mint leaves.
Yield: 6-8 servings
I ended up liking this a lot more than I thought I would. It’s extremely healthy and even vegan! Well, mine wasn’t, because I subbed chicken broth for the wine, but you know! Details!