Rigatoni With Lentil Ragu

When my friend Deb. Mele posted a recipe for Lentil Bolognese I have to say, it got my attention!

As I am always on the lookout for interesting pasta sauces, for vegetarian meals and lastly but by no means least, I’m that woman who stuffs Castelluccio lentils into her luggage when packing to come home from Italy. Castelluccio lentils are grown in Umbria and are tiny, brownish jewels with a delicate flavor and a wonderfully tender texture. And like Lentil du Puy, they don’t disintegrate in cooking, which makes them ideal for salads.  This is my version of Deb’s. recipe!  You may not be able to get your hands on Castelluccio lentils, if not, substitute other Italian lentils.  There are some nice ones from Puglia available.

Makes Enough Ragu for 1 lb. Rigatoni

Precook the Lentils:

1 cup Castelluccio lentils, picked over for any debris or stones, or other Italian lentils
1/3 cup finely diced carrots
1/3 cup finely diced celery

Make the Sauce:

1/3 cup finely diced onion
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 fresh bay leaves or 1 dried bay leaf
5 Tbsp. EVO
¼ – ½ tsp. peperoncino (aka chili flakes)
½ cup dry white wine
2 ½ cups tinned Italian plum tomatoes, diced & crushed with your hands
1 Tbsp. tomato paste.
1 – 2 tsp. sea salt or Kosher salt

1 lb. Rigatoni or other tubular shaped pasta

To Finish Dressing the Pasta:

5 – 6 leaves of fresh basil
2 Tbsp. chopped Italian parsley
½ – 1 cup finely grated Pecorino

Place the picked through & rinsed lentils in a medium sized pot with the carrots, celery, bay leaves & 3 cups cold water. Bring to a boil; turn the heat down, cover & sinner 15 – 25 minutes or just until tender.

Meanwhile, heat 5 Tbsp. EVO in a large saute pan. Saute 1/3 cup of the onion & the garlic slices until softened & slightly golden but not browned. Clear a spot in the pan & add the tomato paste, stirring for about 1 minute. Add the chili flakes (peperoncino) to the pan, stir for 30 seconds. Add the white wine & reduce by 1/3rd. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer; cook until slightly thickened. Drain the lentils, reserving the liquid & add the lentils to the pan with the tomatoes, season with salt, keeping in mind that the sauce will reduce somewhat. Simmer this mixture uncovered for approximately 25 minutes of until it’s a good consistency to dressing the pasta. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with some of the lentil cooking water. Keep sauce warm.

Cook the rigatoni until al dente. Check it approximately 2 minutes before the suggested time on the package. Scoop out some of the cooking water & set aside, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the pan containing the warm sauce tossing to combine, adding a bit of the pasta cooking water to reach the desired consistency if necessary. Tear up and add the basil leaves & parsley, tossing to combine. Remove from the heat, add the Pecorino, toss to combine.

Place the pasta in a warm serving bowl & drizzle with the remaining EVO, sprinkle with a bit more Pecorino & serve immediately.


  1. I like how you shifted the name from Bolognese to Ragout Phyllis! ????.
    I have to admit it would look kind of like a Bolognese and it’s bound to be tasty!

    • But Chris…the Bolognese would be totally annoyed with me if I called it a Bolognese Sauce…as you know there are rules to be followed! Did you know there is actually an “official Bolognese sauce” recipe recognized by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina? Very strict! And only fresh Tagliatelle/Fettuccine will do, none of that English nonsense with spaghetti! Ragu is remains…not Ragout! Didn’t want the the Bolognese to sic the Sauce Police on me!

  2. Dear Phyllis, Somehow this one slipped through the cracks. Just seeing this now, well into June… Love lentil ragù! In my book it’s. every bit as delicious as the carnivore variety. If we have a chilly night one of these days, I know what’ll be on the menu!

    • So nice to hear from you Frank…the ragu is good isn’t it! Recently saw your post for Bucatini alla Caruso…this is one that I don’t come across often, although it’s in my very first Italian cookbook “The Family Cookbook: Italian”…the sauce includes chicken livers and mushrooms! I like your version a whole lot more! Don’t know about you but I actually prefer veggie type sauces to heavier meat ones. Tonight’s pasta is Marcella’s pepper and sausage sauce on a pasta shape called fusilli vellinesi (a new shape for us)…Ciao, Frank! I look forward to making the bucatini!

  3. Hi Phyllis,
    I haven’t seen many posts from your blog lately, so I stopped by to pay a visit. This lentil ragu would be a perfect meatless meal for Lent or any time of year! Better for us too! Hope you’re doing well! Are you getting the travel itch? I hope Italy opens up to Americans soon and when it is safe. I’m traveling vicariously through the web and TV Series such as Stanley Tucci’s on CNN.

    • Hi Roz…I’ve been trying to re jig the blog…and it’s taking forever! I’ve not some one new helping me now and am hoping to get things up and running the way it should be. Frustrating! Thanks for getting in touch!

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