This is not your everyday pasta sauce. The uniqueness of this sauce lies in its thick chunkiness and slight crunch.

Black (beluga) lentils are not easy to find locally but are worth searching for at natural foods stores and online. They have the highest nutritional value of all lentils, but I suppose you could substitute French green lentils if you can’t find them. Just be sure not to overcook them. I like to cook extra lentils while I have the water boiling and then freeze them for future use. You can expect them to double in volume when cooked.

Did you know that pulses (dried beans, peas, and lentils) are said to be the secret food of super-agers?


1/2 cup black lentils

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 tsp. fennel seeds

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 fennel bulb, core removed, diced

6 cloves garlic, crushed

28-ounce can diced tomatoes, including liquid

15-ounce can tomato sauce

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce or liquid aminos

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

4 Tbsp. tomato paste (or more)

Salt to taste

1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

12 ounces whole-wheat pasta, such as Barilla


1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the lentils and reduce the heat slightly. Boil the lentils for 17 minutes, until they are al dente but NOT mushy or falling apart. They must remain intact. Drain them and set them aside.

2. Dry the saucepan well. Add the walnuts and fennel seeds to the dry pan. Heat and stir continuously for just a few minutes over medium heat until the walnuts and seeds are fragrant and lightly toasted. Be careful not to burn them! Empty them into a small bowl and set aside.

3. In the same saucepan, heat the oil until it shimmers, then add the onion, carrots, celery, and fennel. Cook and stir over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

4. Add the canned tomatoes and juice, tomato sauce, white wine, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Continue to cook and stir over medium-low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.

5. Add the reserved lentils, walnuts, fennel seeds, and tomato paste. Add additional salt to taste and add more tomato paste if desired. Continue to cook over low heat while you prepare the pasta.

6. While the sauce is finishing, bring a vast cauldron of salted water to a rolling boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain it well and toss it in a wide bowl with a little olive oil and a little more chopped parsley.

7. Stir half the chopped parsley into the sauce and use the remainder to garnish individual servings.