I live off of lentils. For someone who’s often too busy, too tired or too lazy to soak beans overnight, lentils are the perfect option. No overnight soaking and they cook up in just a half an hour. Not to mention that they’re some of the healthiest food around. Full good things like protein, fiber, iron and vitamins. They’re a veritable powerhouse of awesome.
And what better to pair this health food with than cured pork, aged cheese and flavored oil? Like bacon, everything is better with pancetta. It gives the lentils a subtle porky flavor. Onions and garlic add aroma. Lemon and sherry vinegar give the lentils a bite. Shaved Parmesan cheese and smoked paprika oil lend them a richness that balances everything out and makes this a meal. These lentils are hearty, deeply flavorful and delicious. One of my favorite quick lunches.
If your lentil experience is limited to soup, give these a try. You’ll be singing the praises of the lowly lentil in no time.
Pancetta Parmesan Lentils with Smoked Paprika Oil
3 oz. sliced pancetta, diced
1/2 large red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. lentils – regular or De Puy variety
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup diced fire-roasted tomatoes (I use Muir Glen canned variety. Regular canned diced tomatoes work too.)
salt to taste
1 tbsp. Medium-Hot Chili Powder
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 oz. Parmesan cheese for dusting
Heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high. Once it’s hot, add the pancetta and onions and saute until the fat in the pancetta render and the onions soften and begin to brown, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another minute.
Add the lentils, tomatoes and chicken stock and use a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan. Once the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and let simmer for 25 – 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the lentils are tender, add salt to taste.
Stir in the chili powder, lemon juice and sherry vinegar and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Combine the olive oil and paprika in a small bowl and mix until well-combined.
Ladle into bowls and top with Parmesan cheese and a good drizzle of the paprika oil.
Makes 4 entree-sized portions and 6-8 side portions.