I love a classic ragu, I do. But sometimes your body needs a whole load of veg. This is a great winter weeknight dinner for after work when you’re cold, tired, hungry and in need of something substantial.
This is a large batch that will feed 4 -5 people. It’s something I always make in large quantities because the leftovers make a delicious lunch the next day.
4 stalks celery
2 medium carrots
3 small onions
6 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
50g fresh basil, stalks and leaves separated
500ml vegetable stock.
1 bay leaf
2 tins chopped tomatoes
parmesan rind, if you have one
fresh parmesan and red chili flakes for serving
salt and pepper to season
500g wholewheat spaghetti or pasta of your choice
Peel the onion and carrot. Roughly chop them and the celery and blitz in a food processor until you have a fine mince.
Heat the oil in a large pan. Peel and chop the garlic. Finely slice the basil stalks and add to the oil with the garlic and chilli flakes, cook for several minutes until fragrant.
Add the celery, onion and carrot and cook, stirring frequently, until it has cooked down and reduced in size, about 15 – 20 minutes.
Add the lentils, vegetable stock, tinned tomatoes, bay leaf and parmesan rind if using. Cook, stirring frequently – lentils catch easily – until the lentils are cooked, usually about 25 minutes.
(Once you add the lentils if you think it is starting to look a little dry resist the temptation to add water. Once the pasta starts cooking you are going to add copious amounts of the magic ingredient – seasoned, starchy pasta water.)
Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook until right before it is al dente. Remove, using a spider, to your pot of simmering ragu. Add a generous amount of pasta cooking water and let the pasta finish cooking in the sauce. Keep stirring, adding extra pasta water if needed.
Serve with fresh basil, extra chili flakes and freshly grated parmesan cheese.