- 1 cup green or black lentils, picked through and washed in a colander
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 cup pancetta, cubed
- 1 large red onion, finely chopped
- 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1/2 small bulb of fennel, diced
- 1 small red pepper, diced
- 1 pinch salt
- black pepper, to taste
- 1 cup milk
- the cooked lentils
- 1 cup white wine/red wine/stock of your choice
- 1-28 ounce can of best quality canned tomatoes, crushed is fine
- 1 handful fresh basil, chopped
- fresh ricotta and/or grated Parmesan cheese
- Cooking the Lentils: Put the lentils in a saucepan and cover with the water. Bring the water to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes, until they are al dente (not mushy). Drain extra water and reserve.
- In large heavy pot (I break out the Le Creuset for this), brown and render out the fat from the pancetta. Remove the pancetta from the pan and put it aside. You will be cooking the vegetables etc. using the pancetta fat.
- Add the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, fennel, red pepper, salt and pepper to the pancetta fat (add a tablespoon of butter or splash of olive oil if necessary) and cook until aromatic. Cook for about 5-8 minutes over medium heat.
- Add the milk to the vegetables and stirring most of the time, cook it until it has almost all cooked away. Stir the cooked lentils in. Add the wine and cook it the same way as the milk. Cooking the milk and wine down will take some time.
- Stir in the tomatoes and reserved pancetta and let the sauce come to almost a boil. Knock the heat back to low and let simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add a pinch of crushed red pepper if you want. Add the chopped basil.
- Serve over pasta, on polenta, to complement a poultry, meat, and/or fish dish. If serving with pasta or polenta, serve with a dollop of fresh ricotta or Parmesan cheese on the top.