This dish is based on a Tuscan-style pasta I loved at a restaurant. Think of it as “spaghetti Bolognese” but substitute lentils for meat to make it healthy and hearty, without the deleterious impacts of animal products.
Lentils (and other beans) are really good for you. They lower the glycemic index of other foods you eat them with, and keep working for hours afterward. That means that your blood sugar won’t spike if you eat a healthy serving of lentils with your pasta. Legumes lessen blood sugar spikes by stimulating your good gut bacteria to produce a hormone that slows the rate at which your stomach empties the food out into the intestines to get absorbed.
(T. M. Wolever, D. J. Jenkins, A. M. Ocana, V. A. Rao, G. R. Collier. Second-meal effect: Low-glycemic-index foods eaten at dinner improve subsequent breakfast glycemic response. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 1988 48(4):1041 – 1047)
Legumes have also shown to improve people’s lifespan. In cultures where legumes are consumed frequently – Japan (soy, tofu, miso), the Mediterranean region (garbanzo, white beans), Sweden (brown beans, peas) – longevity is increased with increased intake in legumes. (Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2004;13(2):217-20 ). A study of nearly 6000 people in Taiwan showed that not eating legumes was associated with increased risk of mortality in women due to increased metabolic syndrome (the precursor to Diabetes and heart disease). Increased risk of metabolic syndrome was seen in both women and men. (Public Health Nutr. 2012 Apr;15(4):663-72.)
What nutritional value do legumes provide? According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “Beans and peas are excellent sources of protein. They also provide other nutrients, such as iron and zing, similar to seafood, meat, and poultry. They are excellent sources of dietary fiber and nutrients such as potassium and folate, which are also found in other vegetables.” (http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/dietaryguidelines2010.pdf)
So, you can count legumes as both a vegetable and a protein source! Score!
I made the tomato sauce with an onion/garlic base, foods which are the best at fighting the growth of many different types of cancers (see my leek soup post). Tomatoes, which are among the richest vegetable/plant sources of potassium (NOT bananas, by the way, which rank 50th!), reduce the risk of vascular diseases, therefore reducing the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Spaghetti with Lentils
Time: 1 hour
1 cup of lentils
2.5 cups water
1 vegetable buillon cube
1 bay leaf
Combine lentils and above ingredients in a pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer on low, covered, until water is absorbed (30-45 minutes) and/or lentils are medium soft.
Combine the lentils with the sauce in the last step, below.
3 tomatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup of strained tomatoes
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1-2 cups of loose basil, then chopped roughly
1-2 cups of loose parsley, then chopped roughly
1 teaspoon sage
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat olive oil on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Add the onion, saute for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, saute together until the onions become opaque.
2. Add the tomato paste, strained tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, and sage. Turn heat down to medium-low, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes. Try not to let the mixture come to a complete boil.
3. After 10-15 minutes, add the parsley and basil. Continue to cook until the parsley and basil have wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. When the lentils are cooked, pour them into the sauce. Cook together on low heat, covered, for 5 minutes.
Pasta: There are all sorts of pastas out there. You can use whole wheat pasta, quinoa pasta, or whatever else you prefer. I ended up using the pasta I already had on hand. A spaghetti or linguine works best. I cooked enough pasta for 8 servings, al dente, according to the instructions on the box.
The finished product:
Thank you to www.nutritionfacts.org for providing helpful nutritional information!