Fall in L’Aquila is not unlike fall in New York: the days can be bright and warm, while the nights are brisk and chilly. This dish is perfect for those days when the skies are gray, and you want something to warm you up. If you don’t have dried lentils on hand, simple reach for a can from your pantry. I prefer the dry lentils. As another variation, I’ve also added fresh sausage while the lentils are cooking. This is a dish prepared in the town of Santo Stefano di Sessanio. They are famous in Italy for its production of lentils. Did you know that this town as been referred to as the “Tuscany of Abruzzo”? Fantastic!
- 1½ cups dry lentils (or canned, drained, and rinsed)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta (cut in ¼-inch pieces)
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 1 pound spaghetti (or egg noodles)
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste
- Freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley
In a medium saucepan, bring salted water to a boil. Add the lentils, cover, and continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until tender but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. (If you are using canned lentils, you can add them directly to the frying pan after you sauté the pancetta.)
Using a large pot, cook the pasta according to the package instructions until it is al dente.
In the meantime, heat olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta, onions, and garlic. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the pancetta is golden, about 7 minutes. Combine with the lentils and season with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta, but reserve 1⁄2 cup of pasta water. Toss the lentils and gradually add water until creamy. Sprinkle with Parmigiano and garnish with parsley.