Lentils are one of my favorite high protein foods. They are so versatile and can be used in many different recipes.
There are so many reasons to incorporate them into your diet. Lentils give you energy to burn while stabilizing your blood sugar. One cup of cooked lentils contain 18 grams of protein per cup with less than 1 gram of fat. It also contains 16 grams of dietary fiber. A diet that includes plenty of fiber can regulate bowel movements, promote digestive health and decrease the risk of many cancers. Lentils are also an excellent source of folate, magnesium and iron. This is one of my favorite lentil recipes. Lentils make an excellent substitute for meat and this healthy marinara with pasta-free zucchini noodles is so delicious.
What you will need
1C dry lentils
6 medium zucchini
1 25oz jar of your favorite marinara (I used Arrabbiata which is hot and spicy, so use only if you like hot and spicy)
1/2 onion diced
1 stalk celery chopped
1 carrot chopped
2-3 cloves garlic chopped or crushed
4 T balsamic vinegar
salt and cracked pepper
optional: to season lentils
Measure 1C lentils into a strainer. Remove any shriveled lentils or debris and rinse thoroughly.
Place rinsed lentils in a medium saucepan. Add 2 cups water and any seasonings except salt. (salt can cause the lentils to remain crunchy even when fully cooked so it is best added after) I added 1/4 tsp onion powder, 1/4 tsp. garlic powder and some cracked pepper. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then lower the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. Place the lid ajar and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until most of the water has evaporated and the lentils are tender.
Rinse and dry the zucchini. Peel lightly, cut off ends.
I used a julienne peeler to make my noodles. This is very easy. Just pass the peeler lengthwise over the side of the zucchini to produce long, flat noodles, which easily fall apart into spaghetti-like strands. When you reach the seeds, turn the zucchini and continue to another side. (The seeds will make the noodles fall apart)
Place the julienned zucchini in a colander and toss with salt until lightly coated. Allow the zucchini to sit for 30 minutes. This sweating will remove excess water which can make your noodles mushy and watery. After 30 minutes, rinse with running water and drain well. Taste and rinse again if noodles still taste salty.. Pat dry with paper towel.
For al dente noodles place in the fridge uncovered for an hour or so. You can make your noodles ahead of time and store covered in the fridge for up to 4 days. This step plus the salting will make all the difference in your noodles.
Chop onion, carrot, celery and garlic.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan and add the vegetables. Saute until softened about 10 minutes.
Put the marinara sauce, 2 cups cooked lentils, and sauteed vegetables in a large pot. Add 4 T balsamic vinegar, turn the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
When your ready to eat, simply saute the noodles in a little olive oil for a few minutes. They taste amazing and actually taste like noodles. Top with your lentil marinara, fresh chopped basil and Parmesan cheese and you have a healthy spaghetti dinner! You can also make the sauce ahead and freeze in quart freezer bags.
This serves 4-5