I’m a big, big fan of ridiculously quick pasta recipes – pasta is always my go to dinner when I’m pushed for time. If the sauce can be made in the time the pasta takes to cook, it’s a winner. This smoky lentil carbonara ticks all the boxes – it’s quick to make, doesn’t require much prep or chopping, and tastes deeelish.
Before anyone tells me off, I am well aware that this isn’t a true carbonara. Spaghetti carbonara is usually made with bacon and eggs, and this smoky lentil carbonara has neither. But it’s definitely inspired by the traditional dish – the sun-dried tomatoes and smoked paprika replace the smoky pancetta, and a dollop of creme fraiche and some hard cheese are used to make the creamy sauce instead of raw eggs. It’s an easy alternative that’s less likely to go wrong if you’re not an experienced cook (I’m always somewhat afraid that I’ll end up with scrambled eggs in my carbonara…).
I used a sachet of pre-cooked puy lentils to keep this recipe quick and light on the prep. They’re readily available in the UK (in fact they’re much easier to find than dried puy lentils, weirdly), but if you’re in a country where you can’t find them, just cook your puy lentils from scratch instead. Boil them up in some veggie stock with a bay leaf, and they’ll be really tasty.
Then you just need to sprinkle a little more cheese over the top, and serve it with some crusty garlic bread and a big salad (and maybe a glass of wine or seven).
What’s your go to quick dinner? With a newborn baby in tow, I’m in need of some more quick ideas!
Smoky lentil carbonara
- 220 g (~ 7 1/2 oz) spaghetti
- 3 tbsp creme fraiche
- 60 g gruyere cheese (or vegetarian parmesan-style cheese), finely grated (~ 1 cup when grated)
- 4 large pieces sun-dried tomato, finely chopped
- 150 g (~ 3/4 cup) cooked puy lentils
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- Black pepper
- 3 tbsp water (you can use the pasta cooking water)
- Fresh basil, chopped, to serve (optional)
- Boil the spaghetti in plenty of water until almost cooked, then drain.
- Add the creme fraiche and grated cheese to the pasta over a low heat, along with the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, cooked puy lentils, and smoked paprika. Season with plenty of salt and pepper, and stir gently until the creme fraiche and cheese have melted to give a silky sauce. You can add a dash of water if you feel it's necessary.
- Serve topped with fresh basil, if desired.
Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose.