Spaghetti with Lentils, Roasted Tomatoes, and Spinach

May 19, 2020 (Last Updated: July 29, 2020)
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Find vegetarian comfort in a bowl of Spaghetti with Lentils, Roasted Tomatoes, and Spinach. This hearty dish hails from Locanda Veneta, an Italian eatery in Los Angeles which has served this beloved spaghetti for decades!

A bowl of spaghetti with lentils, roasted tomatoes, and spinach, with a fork twirled around a portion of pasta

(This recipe was originally published in May 2009, but was updated with new photos and content in 2020).

Locanda Veneta was my absolute favorite Italian restaurant when I lived in Los Angeles. I visited for just about every special and non-special occasion.

One of my favorite dishes was always the Spaghetti with Lentils, Roasted Tomatoes, and Spinach. I have made this dish various times at home with delicious results. It’s not 100% identical to what I remember at Locanda Venteta in terms of the texture of the sauce, but the flavor is spot on and so delicious!

Although many people consider lentils to be a winter comfort, I think they are an anytime ingredient. They’re healthy, satisfying, hearty, and a great alternative when you are skipping meat on the menu.

Meat can also get pretty expensive, so this budget-friendly spaghetti dish is the perfect opportunity to dig into your pantry for those forgotten lentils!

spaghetti with lentils, roasted tomatoes, and spinach twisted around a fork

How to make Spaghetti with Lentils

This recipe is easy, but requires a few steps to put it all together. First you’ll need to rinse and soak your lentils for a couple hours. While you’re waiting you can prep some of the other ingredients.

Next, halve 6 Roma or plum tomatoes lengthwise and arrange them in a small pan. Top with minced garlic, dried oregano, chopped parsley, salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Roast for about 30 minutes until they are soft and juicy. Remove from the oven.

Before and after photos of halved tomatoes roasted in the oven
Before and after roasting

When they are cool enough to handle, you can pull off the skins. This is optional but I really recommend it for a cleaner eating experience.

Get started on the lentil mixture next. Heat some olive oil in a pot, and add finely chopped onion, carrot, and celery (STEP 1). Cook until softened (STEP 2), and then add the drained lentils, water, a crushed garlic clove, and a bay leaf (STEP 3). Bring to a boil, then partially cover, lower the temperature, and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Remove the bay leaf. Strain, reserving the cooking liquid, and then stir 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid into the lentil mixture. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside (STEP 4).

step by step photos of sauteing aromatics and then cooking lentils

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and cook your spaghetti until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or pot, heat up some olive oil and then add 8 ounces of baby spinach (STEP 1). Stir, and cover for a couple minutes to help it wilt. Then uncover and mix again to wilt it a bit more (STEP 2). Add the roasted tomatoes, stir, and slightly mash the tomatoes a bit to break them up (don’t overdo it) (STEPS 3-4). Add the lentil mixture and stir, cooking for another 4 minutes or so (STEPS 5-6).

step by step photos of making a lentil, roasted tomato, and spinach sauce for pasta

Strain your cooked spaghetti and return to the pot. Add the lentil sauce and cook for another few minutes to help the sauce absorb a bit into the spaghetti. At this point you can stir in some grated Parmesan cheese, which will help the sauce thicken and cling, or you can pass the cheese at the table in case everyone doesn’t want it. Serve immediately!

A bowl of spaghetti with lentils, roasted tomatoes, and spinach

Tips for success

Use brown lentils for this recipe. Green lentils will work too, but Locanda Veneta uses brown lentils for theirs. Red lentils will fall apart, so definitely don’t use those!

If you use regular spinach instead of baby spinach, you will want to lightly steam or blanch the spinach before mixing it into the sauce. Baby spinach is tender enough that you can quickly wilt it while you’re assembling the sauce at the end.

You can make each of the components (the roasted tomatoes and the lentil sauce) separately ahead of time. Before serving, wilt the baby spinach and continue building the sauce.

Other recipes you may like

Have you ever tried a lentil sauce for your pasta? It’s a great way to enjoy a meatless meal with the heartiness of a meal containing meat. If you love this recipe as much as I do, don’t forget to rate it and leave a comment below! Thanks.

spaghetti with lentils, roasted tomatoes, and spinach twisted around a fork

Spaghetti with Lentils, Roasted Tomatoes, and Spinach

Victoria
Find vegetarian comfort in a bowl of Spaghetti with Lentils, Roasted Tomatoes, and Spinach. This hearty dish hails from Locanda Veneta in Los Angeles which has served this beloved spaghetti for decades!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Soaking Time 2 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 to 6 servings
Calories 557 kcal

Ingredients
  

Lentils:

  • 3/4 cup dry lentils (preferably brown lentils)
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot finely chopped
  • 1 small stalk celery finely chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Tomatoes:

  • 6 ripe plum or Roma tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

The Rest:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces fresh baby spinach
  • 1 pound dry spaghetti
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for the table

Instructions
 

  • For the lentils: Rinse the lentils well, removing any stones. then cover with water and soak 2 hours. Drain.
  • For the tomatoes: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and lay them cut side up in an 8 or 9-inch square baking pan. Scatter with the parsley, garlic, and oregano, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then drizzle with olive oil. Roast in the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and juicy. Set aside. If desired, once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins (they should slide right off).
  • Once the lentils have been soaked and drained, warm olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the onions, carrots, and celery, and cook until they are soft and translucent, stirring frequently about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the lentils, water, the crushed garlic clove, and the bay leaf.
  • Bring to a boil, stir, then reduce heat and simmer partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Remove the bay leaf. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking water. Return reserved water to lentils and set aside. Season with salt and black pepper.
  • For the pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • In the meantime, heat remaining olive oil in a large saucepan or pot. Add the spinach, stir, and cover for a couple minutes to help it wilt. Uncover and add the tomatoes, stirring and breaking them up a bit with a wooden spoon. Saute over medium-high for 1 minute, then stir in the lentils, reduce the flame to medium, and let everything cook together for 4 minutes, stirring regularly.
  • Boil the pasta in the salted water until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain, then toss with all of the sauce, and cook together for another minute over high heat to allow some of the liquid to absorb and thicken. Serve, offering Parmesan at the table for topping.
  • Alternatively you can stir about 1/4 cup Parmesan directly into the pasta over the heat, which will help thicken the sauce a bit too. Only do this if everyone eating the spaghetti wants cheese in theirs.

Notes & Nutrition

  • Use brown lentils for this recipe. Green lentils will work too, but Locanda Veneta (the LA eatery which created the original recipe) uses brown lentils for theirs. Red lentils will fall apart, so definitely don’t use those!
  • If you use regular spinach instead of baby spinach, you will want to lightly steam or blanch the spinach before mixing it into the sauce. Baby spinach is tender enough that you can quickly wilt it while you’re assembling the sauce at the end.
  • You can make each of the components (the roasted tomatoes and the lentil sauce) separately ahead of time. Before serving, wilt the baby spinach and continue building the sauce.
Adapted from Italy Anywhere
Servings 4.0 * calories 557 * Total Fat 12 g * Saturated Fat 1 g * Monounsaturated Fat 4 g * Polyunsaturated Fat 6 g * Trans Fat 0 g * Cholesterol 0 mg * Sodium 89 mg * Potassium 782 mg * Total Carbohydrate 98 g * Dietary Fiber 17 g * Sugars 5 g * Protein 20 g
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*

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A bowl of spaghetti with lentils, roasted tomatoes, and spinach, with a fork twirled around a portion of pasta

1 Comment

  • Reply
    Mary Kabakian
    May 21, 2020 at 1:24 pm

    5 stars
    What a great comforting pasta recipe. I would have never thought to put lentils in a pasta sauce but it really works!

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