I’ve been searching for a pappardelle bolognese with lentils and sausage recipe for a while now. Ever since I ordered 4 bags of French green lentils from Bob’s Red Mill and realized 4 bags of lentils is a lot of lentils for one woman to go through. Especially when it’s not the only kind of lentil in my pantry. I had no idea how I was going to eat so many lentils, but I’m pretty happy to eat anything that involves pasta and cheese. Especially if it also involves tomato sauce and Italian sausage.
I’ve been waiting for Dinner: Changing the Game with significant anticipation since it popped up on my cookbook pre-order list ages ago. When it arrived and I flipped through it, I felt a bit ho-hum about it, but it’s grown on me since then. I like the fact that it’s so focused on dinner, and that the recipes require minimal kitchen labor with the aim of maximal flavor at the end, all in one pot (mostly…not counting the pasta-cooking pot). On the one hand, nothing I’ve made so far has been stunningly delicious. I didn’t make this pappardelle bolognese with lentils and sausage and immediately feel the need to share the recipe with everyone in the same way I felt that need with the Maccheroni alla Chitarra. But maybe I’m being a little unfair… for an easy, hearty, reasonably healthy dinner, this bolognese with lentils and sausage hits the spot.
The recipe is simple to follow, I didn’t have to do that much work nor that many dishes. To speed things up even further and reduce pan numbers, instead of sauteing hardy greens to serve on the side, I chopped up some broccoli rabe and threw it in the lentil sauce towards the end of the cooking time. Melissa winter-time pasta is rich, satisfying, and makes a huge amount of pasta for one person. I’m still happily eating it four days later. Since’s not just changing my dinner game… I’ve been eating this for breakfast with zero complaints.
Instead of actually making this with pappardelle, I made mine with campanelle (little bells), because the irregular shape lets the pasta hold even more sauce (and it’s what I had in my cupboard). I also cheated and pre-caramelized my onions because it was a snow day and I had the time, but I don’t think doing so made a huge difference to the final sauce. Saute your onion, add meat if you’re using it, add the veggies and cook until soft, then add the herbs and spices, tomato paste, tomatoes, a little water, and lentils. Cook. Possibly add some greens to the sauce. Get your pasta water started, grate your cheese, cook the pasta, and finally toss everything together with a little butter and/or olive oil for additional richness. It takes a little while for everything to cook, but Melissa’s pappardelle bolognese with lentils and sausage is a pretty low-maintenance affair.
Pappardelle Bolognese with Lentils and Sausage
- 3-5 tablespoons olive oil extra-virgin
- 8 ounces sweet Italian sausage (pork or turkey)* casings removed
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 small carrot diced
- 1 stalk celery diced
- 1 stalk fresh rosemary about 1 tablespoon fresh leaves finely chopped
- 1 stalk fresh sage about 1 tablespoon fresh leaves finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes more if you prefer a spicy sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes with their juices
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 3/4 cup French green lentils
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt plus more as needed
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper plus more as needed
- 1 pound pappardelle or other wide ribbon pasta**
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup pasta-cooking water as needed
- 2 tablespoons butter optional
- 1-1 1/2 cups Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese grated
- fresh parsley or chives for garnish
Heat 3 Tbsp of the olive oil in a deep 12-inch skillet or a large Dutch oven set over medium heat. Add the onion, stirring until it softens, about 10 minutes. Add the sausage, stirring to break into bite-sized pieces and beginning to brown on all sides, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, as the onion and then sausage cooks, set up your mise en place for the rest of the dish. Dice your vegetables, mince your garlic, and chop your herbs. Grate the cheese (use a food processor to quickly grate hunks of Parmigiano).
Stir the diced carrot and celery into the pan and continue cooking another 20 minutes, until the onion is well browned and the vegetables are tender. If the pan seems dry, add a little more of the olive oil to keep things from sticking.
Stir in the herbs, garlic, and chile flakes, and cook until they become fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and let it brown, about 1-2 minutes more.
Stir in the whole plum tomatoes together with their juice and the 1 1/2 cups water. Break up the tomatoes with your stirring spoon. Mix in the lentils, the 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and the 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer, then cook gently over low heat, until the lentils are tender (about 40-60 minutes, but this depends significantly on the source and age of your lentils). If the sauce begins to dry out towards the end of cooking, add a little more water, chicken broth, or tomato sauce.
Towards the end of the lentil cooking time, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until it is just al dente, about 1 minute less than the package/recipe guidance.
Scoop out some of the pasta cooking water, using a coffee mug or measuring cup, and reserve it for later.
Drain the pasta and transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl. Toss the pasta with the 2 tablespoons butter (if desired), add a generous splash of the cooking water, the lentil-sausage sauce, and the cheese. Optionally, drizzle with additional olive oil, garnish with chives or parsley, and serve with fresh black pepper and more Parmigiano-Reggiano on the side.
*If you'd prefer not to use sausage in this sauce, Melissa recommends generously adding olive oil at the end to compensate for the lost richness from the meat.
**Choose a pasta that will match this hearty sauce and let the lentil-sausage-veggie pieces cling to its shape. Any irregularly shaped pasta or wide-cut noodle will work.
The total time assumes you do some of the prep work as the vegetables sweat, but also assumes your lentils take the full time to cook.