This easy red lentil pasta recipe includes sautéed garlicky lemon kale and a vegan walnut “cheese” topping. It’s a quick, nutritious and satisfying way to enjoy a gluten-free pasta dinner.
It’s my comfort food of choice (like a good Italian) and nothing satisfies quite like a big bowl of chewy (because overcooked pasta is a sin) pasta when the craving strikes.
And boy, am I glad to live in an era where gluten-free options like red lentil pasta are abundant.
Some people (my parents) swear there’s nothing like regular wheat pasta but I have to disagree. I think the options out there these days from chickpea to rice, quinoa and lentil are pretty darn impressive.
I’ll admit, not everything when it comes to gluten-free substitutes (looking at you, pizza crust) does a good job mimicking the real deal. But I just don’t find that to be true with gluten-free pasta options.
And red lentil pasta is hands down my favorite of all of them.
Red lentil pasta holds its shape and texture well when it’s cooked. It has the same al dente “chew” to it like the regular pasta.
And, best yet, its nutritional profile is excellent.
We’ve all been programmed to think of pasta as just a bowl of carbs but when you make a recipe with red lentil pasta, you get a significant amount of protein too.
The brand I used for this recipe has 21g of protein per serving. That’s pretty much the same as a 3-4 ounce piece of chicken or beef.
Not to mention, a whopping 9g of fiber too! As something Americans lack significantly in their diets, that’s clutch!
And that’s one of the reasons I love lentils so much.
INGREDIENTS FOR THIS RED LENTIL PASTA RECIPE
- dry, uncooked red lentil pasta
- extra virgin olive oil
- vegetable broth
- lemon juice
- lemon zest
- salt & pepper
- toasted walnuts
- nutritional yeast
The toasted walnuts and nutritional yeast are combined in a small bowl to create a “cheesy” vegan topping for the plant based pasta.
It’s optional and of course you can use actual cheese if preferred like parmesan or pecorino romano, but I love this for a plant-based option.
The walnuts also add a nice crunchy texture and healthy omega-3 fats while the nutritional yeast brings some impressive stats of its own.
High in B vitamins, fiber and protein, nutritional yeast (or nooch as it’s sometimes called) is a great addition to so many dishes but especially great in pasta dishes for its similarity in taste to real cheese.
I just love the combo of the two sprinkled on top of this easy red lentil pasta dish.
HOW TO MAKE RED LENTIL PASTA WITH KALE
This is a simple 20 minute or so dish with quick steps and a short ingredient list.
First, bring a pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add the red lentil pasta and cook according to the directions on the package.
I usually drain the pasta a minute before the low end of the cooking time range the package says because I like my pasta al dente.
Drain and rinse with cold water (this helps the pasta not stick) and set aside while the garlicky lemon kale comes together.
In a large skillet, add the olive oil and garlic over medium heat.
Adding the garlic to the skillet before the oil gets hot is key to infuse the oil with the flavor and not overcook/burn the garlic. So make note of this as most recipes have you add garlic once the oil is hot.
Once sizzling, add the kale and vegetable broth. Stir to coat the kale in the oil and garlic mixture and continue cooking until the kale wilts, about 5 minutes.
Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and zest. Add the cooked red lentil pasta to the skillet and toss everything together until well combined.
Serve the pasta with the prepared toasted walnut and nutritional yeast topping.
WHAT SHAPE PASTA SHOULD I USE?
Shape really doesn’t matter. I used red lentil penne pasta here but use whatever shape you find or like! I actually like this recipe with linguine or another long strand noodle too. If I’m not making this lemon spinach feta pasta with it, I’ll use it for this dish instead.
Just make sure to heed the cooking time of the package as different shape pasta has different cooking time.
CAN I USE A DIFFERENT GLUTEN-FREE PASTA?
Yes, if you prefer to use chickpea pasta or brown rice pasta, go for it!
This recipe can easily be made with any kind of pasta type or shape.
CAN I USE DIFFERENT GREENS?
Yes! I mention some options in the recipe below.
Good swaps for the kale would be spinach, Swiss chard, collard greens (if you’re not making my favorite spicy collard greens recipe!) or dandelion greens (if you like bitter), even kohlrabi greens would work!
Escarole is another good option. Or, make this escarole soup recipe with it instead.
If you’re wondering what kind of kale to use in this recipe, any of them will work.
Shown in the pictures is red kale but regular green curly kale or lacinto (dinosaur) kale will also work.
I usually buy dinosaur kale as I find it most tender and easily digestible but I switched it up this time with a gorgeous bunch of red kale.
WHERE CAN I BUY RED LENTIL PASTA?
I’m seeing it in almost every grocery store these days which is exciting!
It wasn’t so long ago that finding these alternative gluten-free pastas was an exhaustive process.
With brands like Explore Cuisine (who is one of my favorites for all alternative pastas like my creamy pumpkin garlic pasta), Barilla, Trader Joe’s, Tolerant and Ancient Harvest making it now, you can pretty much find lentil pasta anywhere.
Of course, ordering online from a place like Thrive Market is another easy option. They have their own line of red lentil pasta too!
I’m all about eating more lentils and more plants in general.
But, I have to say, with lentil pasta now a normal thing in the pasta aisle, it’s hard for this red lentil pasta recipe to not become my new favorite.
It checks all the boxes being vegan, gluten-free, full of fiber and touting a plant count of 5.
Not to mention, this recipe is ready in under 30 minutes and made with pretty much all pantry/refrigerator items we tend to always have on hand.
I’m not someone who gets behind vilifying carbs but I do try and eat them wisely.
For me, that means pairing them with a good dose of fiber, healthy fats and vegetables. That combination tends to tame a blood sugar spike (and subsequent crash).
And this recipe does all those things.
It’s the smart way to indulge in a bowl of pasta and it just so happens it’s pretty darn delicious too!
I also love this brown rice penne penne with ground lamb. It’s a great recipe with big spring flavors perfect for this time of year!
And my lightened up spaghetti alfredo with broccoli could easily be made with a gluten-free pasta. It’s such a great revamp of a decadent classic.
Red Lentil Pasta with Lemon Garlic Greens
- 8 ounces uncooked red lentil pasta
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 bunch kale, leaves removed from stems and roughly chopped (*see note)
- 1/4 cup vegetable broth
- juice of 1 lemon
- zest of 1 lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
For the walnut “cheese” topping
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, add red lentil pasta, stir and cook according to package directions until al dente. Strain, rinse with cool water and set aside.
- While pasta cooks, add olive oil and garlic to a large skillet with high sides over medium heat. Once garlic starts sizzling, cook for 2 minutes, stirring so garlic doesn’t burn.
- Add the chopped kale and broth to the skillet. Stir to combine and cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.
- Turn off heat and add lemon juice and zest.
- Add cooked pasta to the skillet and toss until everything is well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- In a small bowl, combine the walnuts and nutritional yeast. Mix well and sprinkle over pasta before serving.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.