Brown Rice Baked Ziti with Red Lentil Bolognese

Have you ever tried making multiple servings of something that should ideally last a regular human at least 1 week, and then you shock yourself and those nearby by eating all those servings plus another double that in 2-ish days? Well I suppose that’s what happens when you find your comfort food spirit animal, and it’s been one of those weeks..

Here’s a recipe I scrolled by on the fitbit community’s “Vegetarian” page *still loving our fitty bittys!* This community is just normal people posting what they eat (which is refreshing because none of it was superhuman experimental recipes tailored to push the creative limits of last night’s dish. Guilty as charged. Just good, practical food.) And let me tell you, so many good, down-to-earth ideas and inspiration floating around in there. Things people really eat during the week, because it’s quick and designed to feed a slew of mouths or just one mouth a slew of times. Be sure to check it out.

Anyway,  I decided to bake my ziti unlike the ones I found there, because that’s just how I’ve always encountered my ziti’s in the past.  But this was my first time thinking of red lentils as ground beef…I think? If I have already compared the two ingredients, my memory isn’t working for me at the moment. And I was pleasantly taken aback to find that it really does have a ground beef-y texture, just lighter and much less greasy than those versions my kid-self remembers chowing into. So I suppose it could easily be a recipe that an entire family, meat-eaters and all, could get into. 

TIP: Rinse your lentils (maybe even soak them overnight if you’re really afraid) before adding them to the recipe to avoid the uncomfortable/smelly consequences they may cause in your body and in your home! ha! Lentils and other beans and legumes are actually really high in FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) which are carb and sugar alcohols found in foods that all prove to be really difficult to digest for people, especially those with sensitive stomachs, because of the way the body absorbs them.  Lentils specifically are full of galactans which is a type of oligosaccharide that caused fermenting in the stomach, and soaking them helps extract this carbohydrate.  Be sure to discard and rinse away any remaining soaking water too! 

Here’s how  I made this recipe: (I used TWO, 8-in loaf pans–it makes ~12 servings)

  • 1 lb of brown rice penne pasta
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, plus more for greasing
  • 1 medium onion, diced 
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup red wine (the one you’ll serve with it!)
  • 2, 24 ounce jars of your favorite marinara sauce
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 8-10 leaves fresh basil, torn into chunks 
  • salt to taste
  • 1, 16 ounce bag dried red lentils, rinsed, and/or soaked overnight
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)
  • lemon juice for serving(I’ll explain this in a bit…)

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside. 

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat and saute the chopped onion until tender, about 3 minutes.  Add in the minced garlic, and continue to cook for another 2 minutes. Add in the oregano and crushed red pepper, and cook until fragrant, another 2 minutes. Then deglaze the pan with the red wine.

Add in the jars of marinara sauce, reserving half a bottle for assembling, the vegetable broth or water, the remaining  2 tbsp of olive oil and 5 or 6 of the torn basil leaves, and salt to taste (I used 1 1/2 tsp because it’s a lot of baked ziti)  

Then add in the red lentils, stirring until the lentils are completely coated. Bring the sauce to a boil, and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring the pan constantly so the bottom doesn’t burn, and season with salt to taste. Remove from the heat, and combine with the cooked pasta. (You may need a very big bowl for this!)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and oil two loaf pans with the olive oil. Add a layer of the coated pasta to the bottom of each, followed by a thin layer of sauce, and a few tbsp of the shredded mozzarella (if using), repeat 2 more times, and then top with another layer of pasta sauce, and a sprinkle of cheese. Cover with aluminum foil or the lid of the loaf pan if you have one, and place in the oven to cook for 35-40 minutes or until the lentils are completely cooked through. Serve. 

Tip: I like to squeeze on just a squirt of fresh lemon juice to brighten the flavors right before serving. It’s optional, but adds a nice acid to help balance out some of that starch. 

And luckily this dish tastes even better as it ages. 

Quote of the Day: Focus on the things you desire not the things you fear!!

4 thoughts on “Brown Rice Baked Ziti with Red Lentil Bolognese

  1. This looks delicious! How much lentils did you use? And did you use dried or canned? You left the lentils off the ingredient list 🙃

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