Pappardelle Lentil Ragù with a Parmesan, Garlic, Parsley and Lemon Sourdough Pangrattato

The sun languished high in the sky as we walked out of Assisi towards the beautiful Umbrian hill town of Spello renowned for its beauty and quietness where the interconnected weathered stone houses gently cling to the beloved side of Saint Francis’ mountain, Monte Subasio. Leaving via the Porta Nuova, past the striking Basilica di Santa Chiara – my favourite church in all the world – we walked alongside endless lush olive groves, old family vineyards and countless wayside shrines dedicated to beautiful Madonnas with little notes on the side thanking her for, well, everything. The only sound we could hear was the busy chirruping of little birds and the leaves as they gently brushed alongside one another in the warm blossom-scented air. Our destination was lunch, a special lunch with friends for it was my birthday. We were greeted with love of the boisterous kind that is both beautiful and overwhelming in a way that renders you slightly breathless. Wine was poured –  a crisp chilled Pecorino – before we were invited to sit at a long linen-covered vine-shaded table where we noisily shared platters piled high with freshly made pasta lovingly garnished with pangratto and fresh truffle, immense salads, simple salads, rustic bread, more wine – a lusciously fruity Montefalco Sagrantino – more love, thick slices of San Marino bustrengo – a fresh apple, fig and polenta cake – dangerously plump grapes and local cheeses. We got a taxi back – you’ll understand why – just in time for aperitivo on the Piazza del Comune where we watched the setting sun glitter through the iridescent waterfalls of the fountain and waited for the visiting scholars of the glorious Saint Francis to start their evening dance. They were so happy to be there, you see, for they had walked from all over Italy in his footsteps. Group after group of sunburnt and exhausted teenagers who, as they finally entered the town, were clapped for their courage and sacrifice. It seems that clapping for the brave is a thing.

Pappardelle Lentil Ragù

Serves 4


A classic soffritto, 2 medium onions, 1 carrot and 1 stock of celery, very finely chopped
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp tomato purèe
1 glass of red wine
350ml jar of passata rustica
500g cooked le Puy lentils
Vegetable stock pot
2 tbsp of a good balsamic vinegar
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
500g fresh papardelle

250g sourdough breadcrumbs, not too fine
1 tsp dried red chilli flakes
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
80ml extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
30g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Grated zest of a lemon
100g Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated

How I make it

Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the soffritto and turn the heat down. Gently fry for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened and golden.

Add the tomato purée and stir around for a minute. Then add the red wine and let it bubble at a high heat for a further minute or two. Pour in the passata, pour boiling water into the empty jar and pour that in too, add the lentils, the stock pot, balsamic and chilli. Stir everything together, turn the down the heat and leave the sauce to gently simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding more hot water if you need to. Season to your taste and keep warm on a low heat.

Whilst the sauce is cooking, make the pangrattato by combining the breadcrumbs with the chilli, a sprinkle of sea salt and a generous grind of pepper. Heat a medium frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the breadcrumb mixture, turn the heat down and gentle sauté for around five minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden and crispy. Add the chopped garlic and cook for another minute, stirring all the time. Transfer the breadcrumb mixture to a bowl and allow to cool for a minute to two before adding the parsley, lemon zest and parmesan. Season again to your taste.

Put a large pan of water on a high heat, salt generously and bring to the boil. Drop the pasta in and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Drain the pasta, reserving a ladleful of the cooking water and gently pile it into the warm sauce. Gently mix to combine, adding some of the reserved cooking water to loosen it up a bit.

Tumble the pasta onto a warm platter, drizzle with olive oil and garnish with the pangrattato. Serve immediately with a classic green salad and a glass of wine.

One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.