Serve this healthy meatless pasta with a crisp green salad mixed with colorful veggies. If you have really hungry eaters, include a loaf of hearty artisanal bread. Makes 6 to 8 servings. If you aren’t feeding a gang, the sauce freezes well--bonus for another meal.
12 to 13ouncespappardelle, tagliatelle, or fettuccine pasta
Put the lentils in a large pot with water, bay leaf, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and gently cook until the lentils are just tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Test a bite after 5 minutes, and each minute after. Red lentils go from perfect toothy texture to mush very quickly and you want the lentils to be soft, yet still have texture. Drain. Stir the teaspoon of oil. Set aside.
While the lentils cook, heat the first tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-high flame. Add the mushrooms, sprinkle them with salt; cook, stirring occasionally. The mushrooms will release liquid—cook until they turn golden and all of the liquid has evaporated, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the skillet. Add the onions, carrot, celery, and garlic. Sauté until the vegetables are soft, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the blended tomatoes, the sautéed mushrooms, basil, oregano, thyme, red wine, salt, and red pepper flakes. Add the maple syrup, if using.
Simmer on medium flame 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened but is still moist. Add the cooked lentils, tamari and parsley. Cook until heated through. Season to taste with more salt and red pepper flakes, if you think they are needed. heat through. Keep warm.
Cook pasta in well-salted water, according to package directions. Drain. Toss pasta with sauce and serve immediately.
If you have an immersion blender, use that to blend the diced tomatoes. You can also use a food processor.