Dine on the spicy side with lentils simmered in a fiery Diavolo sauce for a devilish (and delish) meal that’s great in big bowls or served over pasta or rice.
In Italian, Diavolo means devil and no matter what’s in the recipe it's designed to be devilishly, spicy hot. But if you like to reserve sweating for your workouts, not the dinner table, you can easily adjust the heat of this recipe.
One thing to love about this recipe is the pure simplicity of the effort. It’s another confirmation to me that when it comes to ingredients, sometimes, less is more.
We’ll be cooking with profiles in spicy courage here – jalapenos, red chili flakes, hot smoked paprika, and ground black pepper. I ended up using 2 ‘smallish’ jalapenos, but I cleaned out the seeds as often, it’s the small ones that end up being combustible. If you like extra heat, you can leave a few seeds.
Because the jalapenos go in at the beginning of the cooking process, the best way to adjust the heat for this recipe is with the amounts of red chili flakes and smoked paprika.
When I grabbed paprika to use in the Diavolo sauce, it occurred to me that there were a few selections sitting on the shelf. After dismissing the urge to perhaps clean out the spice cabinet (a momentary lapse), I wondered why I needed so many kinds and if there were differences beyond the labels.
Turns out, yes, there are differences in paprika.
Basically, there are three kinds of paprika:
1. Sweet paprika is what you most often think of as plain old ‘paprika’. You get no heat from this one and it’s actually used to balance the heat in recipes. With a subtle sweetness and beautiful color, it’s a perfect garnish to sprinkle on potato or pasta salads. If you want a bit of heat from sweet paprika, a pinch of cayenne pepper works wonders.
2. Hot paprika, Hungarian paprika has various ranges of heat (like 8 kinds) and is a real agent of flavor. Although you can spice up regular paprika, you can’t get the smoky flavor. If you want smokiness, then the folks at Pepper Scale recommend using chipotle pepper.
3. Smoked paprika, on the other hand, is the Spanish version. There are three main types of this, mild, medium, and hot. It tends to be the one you find when you are looking for smoked paprika and at least in my area, it’s easier to find and less expensive than Hungarian.
I won’t wade into the debate about Hungarian versus Spanish paprika. I’ll just suggest that for most of us, the differences between them are subtle enough that you can use them interchangeably. Break into that jar of smoked paprika someone gave you as a gift or one you’ve been saving. Once you start using it, you’ll wonder why you didn’t sooner.
Along with the jalapeno and spices, you might be amazed that this recipe calls for 6 cloves of garlic. I approached this is some trepidation the first time I tried it. But what I learned is that there’s a big difference between crushing or mincing garlic and slicing it.
After giving the garlic slices a few minutes of sautéing, they lose much of the sharp 'garlickiness' when they simmer. Along with the tomato paste, there is a depth of sweetness to the dish. 6 sliced cloves won’t overwhelm the flavor. It doesn’t even require social distancing after dinner, and I doubt it would deter even the timidest vampire.
Green or brown
Although ‘melty’ red lentils are seriously wonderful in sweet potato dahl or spinach curry, if you want a bit of texture to go with the spicy Diavolo bite, then green or brown lentils are your best bet.
Every time I make lentils and pasta, I marvel at how green lentils enhance the simplest of ingredients. They add just enough creaminess to create a sauce with enough bite to keep you satisfied. On a normal basis, you don’t need to search for any fancy kind of lentils. Grab a bag of the inexpensive green ones and save the fancier French for another day.
Because there are so many variations of green and brown lentils, you’ll need to use your judgment when it comes to how much vegetable broth or water to use. Start out with the general 2:1 rule (2 parts liquid to 1 part lentils).
It should take about 20 – 25 minutes for the lentils to get tender. The best way to keep lentils from falling apart is to be sure you keep the temperature at a low simmer. That’s high enough that they are cooking and there is a bit of movement of the liquid and lentils. If you get the heat high enough to boil, then your lentils will become agitated and fall apart.
What to serve with lentils in Diavolo sauce
I’ve served these devilishly good lentils mostly with rice noodles, but they are great with any kind of pasta. They are equally good with rice or another grain such as bulgur. Quinoa would also be a good option. Of course, the magic of this dish is that you can just heap the lentils onto a plate and scoop them up with flatbread.
If you want a bit of garnish, chopped cilantro pairs well. Lemon is a good citrus option if you want a bit of zest.
There are only a few details you’ll want to consider before making simmered lentils with Diavolo sauce. But you take an inventory of all you paprika options, narrow them to which are in date, and decide if it will be green or brown lentils, there isn’t anything so devilish here that you won’t make a success for this dish. And don’t sweat the details, don’t worry if your garlic slices aren’t perfect and your lentils take 5 minutes longer to cook than you planned.
Ditch the small stuff. The sweating might just be reserved for all the extra spice you decided to add. That’s a detail you can control. Peace.Print
Fiery lentils in Diavolo sauce
Dine on the spicy side with lentils simmered in a fiery Diavolo sauce for a devilish (and delish) meal great in big bowls or served over pasta or rice.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 30 minutes
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 4-6 servings 1x
- Category: Main Courses
- Cuisine: Italian
- Diet: Vegan
- 1 – 2 jalapeños, halved, seeded if desired, and finely chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ⅓ cup tomato paste (2 ½ oz./70 gm)
- 2 cups green or brown lentils, rinsed
- 4 - 5 cups of vegetable broth or water
- 1 tsp. salt (optional)
- Heat a medium pot to medium heat and diced jalapeno, garlic slices, 1 Tbsp. smoked paprika, ½ tsp. red pepper flakes, 1 tsp. ground black pepper and 2 Tbsp. water. Stir everything together and saute for 2 minutes until the jalapeno softens a bit.
- Mix in the tomato paste and add 4 cups of the vegetable broth or water and the lentils.
- Bring the pot to a slow simmer and cover. Cook the lentils until they are tender and most of the liquid is absorbed (20-25 minutes). Check periodically and add more liquid if needed.
- Taste and add salt or more smoked paprika or chili flakes if desired.
- Serve with pasta, rice noodles, rice, bulgur, or quinoa if desired.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro, parsley, or lemon wedges.
- Nutritional information is based on the lentils with Diavolo sauce and doesn’t include pasta or rice. Nutritional information is for 6 servings.
- If you want saucier lentils, add more vegetable broth or water.
Keywords: Lentils in Diavolo sauce