It has been a rainy, cool, blah day here – the sort of weather that leaves you only wanting to curl up on the couch with a blanket and a good book – for me, that book is currently Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals by Karen Dawn. This has been such an important, thought-provoking, and yet emotional read for me. Karen Dawn takes an honest look at everything from factory farming to fashion to vivisection, examining the ins and outs of our use and abuse of animals. Thankfully, the book manages a lighter tone and is full of photos, comics, and inspirational quotes that balance out the heavy topics. Although I am sometimes brought to tears by the information, I think it’s a worthwhile and necessary read.
Anyway, on to the food — with the cold and wet weather, I was craving something warm and creamy. I had some leftover seitan in the fridge, so I decided on this soul-soothing dish that combines lentils, seitan, tomatoes, and spinach in a hearty sauce that pairs well with whatever pasta you have on hand (I used brown rice spiral pasta). The dish is topped with a garnish of fresh diced tomatoes and parsley, which adds a colorful splash to an otherwise dreary day.
This recipe took a little extra time – I could have saved myself some trouble by cooking my lentils in advance, as well as soaking the cashews for the cream earlier in the day. However, I forgot to do any of that – thankfully, I’ve found that coming home and boiling my cashews briefly, followed with a “quick soak” in the boiling liquid, tends to soften them enough that they blend up easily. The lentils cooked simultaneously with the soaking cashews, which allowed me to pull the remainder of the ingredients together and dice the veggies while I waited.
Though its a bit of work, the end result is a tender, savory pasta – bits of chewy seitan and lentils give the impression of a “meaty” texture, and the tomato-based cream sauce is pure comfort food. This dish was a huge hit with the entire crowd, with several returning to the pot for second servings.
Creamy Seitan-Lentil Pasta
Serves: 6-8. Prep time: 45 minutes.
Accessibility Notes: Requires a standard blender or food processor, managing of multiple hot pots, and minor chopping.
- 1/2 cup brown lentils, rinsed and picked through
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
- ~1 cup finely shredded seitan (I chopped up about 1/2 pack of WestSoy Seitan Strips)
- 12 oz. brown rice spiral pasta
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 28-oz canned crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup spinach
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- Diced fresh tomato, for garnish
- Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
1. In a medium pot, combine the lentils and 1 1/4 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20-25 minutes, until lentils are tender. Remove from heat and set aside. If you haven’t soaked your cashews in advance, this is a good time to do a quick soak – add the cashews to a small pot, with enough water to cover. Bring to a full boil for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and let them sit while the lentils cook.
2. In a separate large pot, heat 1/2 tbsp of the olive oil over medium-high heat and add the shredded seitan. Keeping the heat high, stir the seitan frequently to just brown it, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, transferring to another plate, and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the brown rice pasta and cook for 13-14 minutes (or per package directions), until pasta is tender. (When the pasta is finished, be sure to run it under cool water to stop the cooking process.)
3. Back to the large pot! Add the remaining 1/2 tbsp of oil. Sauté the onion over medium heat until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add the minced garlic and stir everything together quickly, about a minute. Next add the thyme, salt, black pepper, and lentils, mixing well. Add the crushed tomatoes and bring to a simmer, letting everything cook for 4-5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, drain the soaked cashews and add them to a blender or food processor with the vegetable broth. Blend everything together until you have a smooth sauce. This may take anywhere from 1-4 minutes; I have an inexpensive blender and I let it run about 2 minutes, which gives a lovely, smooth sauce. Pour the blended cashew cream into the tomato mixture and stir until well-incorporated. Also add the cooked seitan to begin heating through.
6. Next chiffonade the spinach – roll it into a loose pile and using your knife, cut everything into long, thin strips. Add the spinach to the tomato mixture and let it cook about 2 minutes, until wilted.
7. Stir in the cooked pasta spirals and mix until everything is well-incorporated. You may want to let this cook 2-3 minutes longer until everything thickens nicely. When ready, scoop into bowls and garnished with the tomatoes and parsley. Enjoy!