Creamy and loaded with plenty of totally-healthy homemade marinara sauce, this baked pasta recipe will have you hooked instantly. The very first time I tried this, I swear I instantly fell in love with the flavors. It is that delicious AND fulfilling. Additionally, since I made this from scratch, it is healthy from its very first to its very last bite.
This one is, once again, easy enough to prepare, as are most of my recipes, with the end result being pretty fancy. I know, many of you would wonder at the apparently weird pairing up of lentils and marinara sauce. But I promise the combination is beyond words. Only when you have a big bite full of this dish, swirling in your mouth, bursting with its lovely flavors, will you realize just how awesome it is. The lentils will fill in for a certain flavor, bite and Bolognese-like texture. Together with the lentils, the homemade marinara sauce, and not to forget the bubbly cheese… wonderfully mingled with the sauce – you’ve got yourself your very own version of an Italian treat. And just like that, the conventionally yummy yet heavy-on-the-carbs dish has become a nutritious, lighter yet unbelievably delicious one.
You can save even more time if you get hold of some good quality (preferably organic) store-bought tomato-basil marinara sauce and cooked lentils, beforehand. However, in our home, it has definitely gotten on the list of our most favorite dinners of all time. It is even greater in a slightly chilly weather, on a lazy weekend night.
To give this recipe an even healthier touch, you can use gluten-free pasta.
The given recipe serves 6.
For the lentils:
- 1 cup brown or green lentils, rinsed
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups water
- Salt as per taste
For marinara sauce: (or can use store bought tomato – basil marinara sauce)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 6 large garlic cloves, pressed and minced
- 28 ounce can of san Marzano tomatoes, crushed
- ½ cup fresh basil
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano
- Pinch of pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper as per taste
- 12 oz whole grain penne pasta
- 8 oz ( 2 cups) pepper jack cheese
- Salt & pepper as taste
- 1 tsp Red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Basil leaves to garnish
- For the lentils; in a saucepan heat a tablespoon of olive and add the onions and cook until translucent. Then add the chopped garlic and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the lentil and water to it. Let it come to a boil at high heat and then cook the lentils for 30 – 40 on low heat. Once the lentils are tender and cooked, strain them using a mesh sieve and return the lentils to their pot.
- To cook the pasta, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of olive oil to it. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.
- To make the marinara, heat olive oil in sauce pan. Once it sizzles, add the chopped onions to it and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes or until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, basil, salt, pepper, chili flakes, sugar and oregano. Stir to combine and simmer uncovered over low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasional. The longer the sauce simmers, the more flavorful it will be.
- Preheat the oven at 350 degrees F.
- Now combine the cooked lentils and pasta together and add ½ cup of cheese to it. Season it with salt, pepper and red chili flakes.
- Pour some marinara on a baking dish and spread it evenly. Now spread the lentil and pasta mixture over it. Pour the remaining marinara onto it and spread evenly over the pasta. Sprinkle the remaining pepper jack cheese onto it.
- Now cover the tray with an aluminum foil. Don’t let the foil touch the cheese.
- Bake for about 30 minutes. Then, remove the aluminum foil cover and let it bake for another 5 minutes until the cheese is lightly brown.
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle some basil leaves on top and serve.