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3/4 cup split red lentils
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded, cored and diced
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
One 28-ounce can plum tomatoes
1 pound pasta
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese, for serving
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta. In a small saucepan, cover the lentils and bay leaf with 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let sit until needed.
2. In a wide saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, celery and bell pepper and cook and stir for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook and stir until the vegetables begin to brown, about 5 more minutes. Add the tomato paste and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until well combined, about 2 minutes. Use your hands to crush the tomatoes into the pan and add the liquid from the can.
3. Bring the sauce to a boil then simmer, stirring occasionally, until it begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. Add the contents of the lentil pot to the sauce and return to a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Meanwhile cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and return it to the pot. Stir some sauce into the pasta and divide among shallow bowls. Top each portion with a large spoonful of sauce and serve with Parmesan for grating.