What I think stands out most about this recipe is how much the cinnamon adds to it. The lentils are simmered with a cinnamon stick, and while subtle, the flavor they absorb makes all the difference in the dish as a whole. It brings a wonderful depth and complexity to the flavor, without anything actually tasting like cinnamon. This plus the spice from the cayenne pepper create an outstanding dish that would otherwise run the risk of being rather boring. I chose a pasta that has fun colors and texture to add a little more vibrancy to the dish. I loved how the spiral shapes added bounce and airiness to the casserole as well, and the colors matched those of the lentils, spinach and carrots, which made the whole dish so cheerful looking. You can go with any pasta you like.
This recipe is inspired by "The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook" by Kim O'Donnel.
spinach pasta

Prep time: 15 minutes 

Cook time: 55 minutes 

Total time: 70 minutes 

Yield: 4-6 servings

Spinach Lentil Ragout Over Pasta


  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 medium-sized onion, peeled but left intact, plus 1/2 onion minced
  • 1/2 cup dried brown or green lentils
  • 3 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 box rainbow spiral pasta (or about 2 cups any uncooked pasta you'd like)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium-size carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 1/2 cups tomato puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups spinach, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Cooking Directions
  1. In a saucepan, bring one cup water to a boil, and add in the cinnamon stick, the intact 1/4 onion, and the lentils. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the lentils have absorbed the water. Discard the cinnamon stick and the onion. Then add in 1/2 teaspoon of fine sea salt and stir to combine. Set aside.
  2. While the lentils are simmering, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook your pasta until al dente.
  3. As the lentils and pasta are cooking, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, minced onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened. Add the wine and thyme, and allow the wine to reduce for about 2 minutes. Add the tomato puree and cayenne pepper, and stir to combine. Let the mixture cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.
  4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Add the lentils to the vegetable and spice mixture, and cook on low heat for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, letting them absorb the flavor. Add a tablespoon or two of water if the ragout seems dry. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the spinach, turn off the heat, and cover the mixture to allow the spinach to wilt.
  5. In a casserole dish, spoon a small amount of the ragout into the bottom of the dish, and spread a layer of pasta. Then layer ragout on top of that. If you use shells, be sure that the ragout makes it into the inside of the shells. Top off the mixture with cheese, and place the dish on the center rack. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until everything is heated through and the pasta noodles are soft.
  6. Plate, serve and enjoy!

spinach pasta

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Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.

Spinach Lentil Ragout Over Pasta
The cinnamon undertones of this dish make it stand apart from regular pasta dishes.