PASTA LENTECCHIA

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 tender celery rib, chopped
2 small leeks, trimmed and chopped
1 piece of Reggiano Parmigiano rind, about 3 inches square (optional)
2 cups canned italiano tomatoes and juice, chopped
1 cup of lentils, rinsed
6 cups of cold water
1/4 pound of tubetti or ditalini
coarse or kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
freshly grated Reggiano Parmigiano

1. In a large sauce pan, melt the butter with the oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, for three minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the onion, carrot, celery and leeks and cook until the vegetables are lightly golden, about ten minutes.

2. With a brush, scrub the outside of the cheese rind under running water. Add the lentils, rind, tomatoes water and salt and pepper to the pot. Bring to a simmer. Cook on low heat 35 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Remove the cheese rind and cut into small pieces. Return the pieces to the soup.

3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta al dente, reserving the drained liquid.

4. Combine the pasta and lentils. The soup should be thick, but the reserved pasta cooking water can be used to thin it if that is desired. Adjust seasonings.

5. Serve hot with the grated Reggiano.

Yield: 6 servings. Nutritional (per serving): 325 calories; 10 grams of fat; 20 mg cholesterol; 235 mgs sodium (before salting); 15 grams of protein; 45 grams of carbohydrate.

Uncle Bill's adjustments: used plain old bacon instead of pancetta; used very fat scallions instead of leeks; used elbows insteada diatlini or tubetti (hard to come by West of Lucca); doubled the recipe — except that I did not use 12 cupsa water. I used a scant 9 cups and used a whole package (about 2.5 cups) of lentils instead of a "doubled" 2 cups. Also, I mighta used more than a halfa pounda elbows. In any case, it came real great.