Lentil mac and cheese with mushrooms and thyme

If you’re a mac and cheese purist, this post is likely going to make you very sad.  And if I’m being honest, I didn’t really know what to call this dish, but “lentil mac and cheese with mushrooms and thyme” sounded decidedly better than “baked pasta with some lentils, ricotta, parmesan, maybe a pinch of red pepper flakes, you know…”  

lentil mac and cheese

And a bit more honesty: I fully intended to sprinkle this ol’ thing with bread crumbs before putting it in the oven, but I got distracted by a French bulldog running through the kitchen with what appeared to be a pair of my underwear.  Life is rich these days.

When we first moved to Southie, we lived across the street from a now extinct restaurant that had the best seasonal menus.  And we’d know… because we ate there, like, three times a week.  That first fall/winter, there was a baked macaroni with mushrooms on the menu, and it changed my life.  Granted, it was a relatively minor life change (I thought I hated mushrooms, turns out… I didn’t).  Eight years later, I’m daydreaming about that pasta and snacking on leftover ‘shrooms.  Or whatever.

Let’s get down to business.

LENTIL MAC AND CHEESE WITH MUSHROOMS + THYME

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb your choice of pasta (roughly half a regular box) – I used rigatoni but I think I might try Banza shells next time, just for the heck of it.
  • 1 c dry lentils (I used this medley from Daily Pantry)
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Approx. 2 tsp fresh thyme (I used 4-5 sprigs of lemon thyme from our deck garden)
  • 2 c cremini mushrooms (aka baby Portobello), cleaned and sliced
  • Pinch each of salt, pepper, red pepper flakes
  • 1 c shredded parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese
  • Optional-ish: 1/4 c breadcrumbs, additional thyme for garnish
lentil mac and cheese

…time for some thyme

Instructions:

  1. Position your oven racks to accommodate your dutch oven/casserole pan
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F
  3. Cook lentils per instructions (I usually do 1 part lentils/2 parts water, boil for 2 minutes and simmer for 10) and cook pasta until just al dente
  4. Meanwhile, in a dutch oven or similar pot (this is the one I have, currently on sale for $50), warm butter and sauté onions until translucent 
  5. Add garlic and sauté for another minute or two
  6. Add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, along with mushrooms and thyme
  7. Sauté mushrooms for 10-15 minutes, stirring often
  8. Once cooked, add lentils and pasta to the mushroom mix, and combine
  9. Add shredded parmesan and gently fold in ricotta cheese, a teaspoon at a time (placing it, rather than mixing it in)
  10. Top with breadcrumbs, if desired (and you’re not distracted)
  11. Bake for 20 minutes
  12. Allow to cool for several minutes before serving

Notes: It tastes better than it looks… you’ll need to trust me on this one.  Lentils do not photograph well… You can easily adapt this recipe for those with gluten allergies, by using gluten free pasta and breadcrumbs (both readily available these days).  I know less than zero about vegan cheeses (I believe Kite Hill makes an almond milk ricotta?), but I dare say this pasta with lentils could hold its own without the parmesan and ricotta.  

lentil mac and cheese

This makes for a hearty vegetarian dinner and would be perfect for sharing during football games or over the holidays.  And I can attest to the leftovers being just as good as the first serving.

Okay.  Back to daydreaming and mushrooms laundry and getting the car inspected I go.

SHOP THIS POST:

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s the one (or two, or nine) really great meal you still find yourself thinking about?

 

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