Serves 8 or more as a first course or soup
2 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut in pieces
1 cup onion cut in 1-inch chunks
1 cup carrot cut in 1-inch chunks
1 cup celery cut in 1-inch chunks
6 fresh sage leaves
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup dry white wine
8 to 10 cups hot water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 ½ cups lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 ½ cups Italian short-grain rice, such as
Arborio, Carnaroli, or Vialone Nano
1 cup chopped scallions
½ cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus more for passing
Drop the pancetta or bacon pieces into the food-processor bowl, and pulse several times, to chop the meat into small bits. Scrape all the chopped pancetta right into the heavy saucepan. Put the onion, carrot, and celery chunks and the sage leaves into the empty food-processor bowl, and mince together into a fine-textured pestata.
Put the butter and olive oil into the saucepan with the minced pancetta, and set over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, as the butter melts and the fat starts to render. When the pancetta is sizzling, scrape in the vegetable pestata, and stir it around the pan until it has dried and begins to stick, 4 minutes or so. Clear a space on the pan bottom, and drop in the tomato paste, toast it in the hot spot for a minute, then stir together with the pestata.
Raise the heat, pour in the white wine, and cook, stirring, until the wine has almost completely evaporated. Pour in 8 cups of hot water and the tablespoon salt, stir well, and heat to the boil. (Add all 10 cups of hot water if you want to serve the rice and lentils as a thick soup rather than a denser riso.)
Cover the pan, and reduce the heat slightly, to keep the water at a moderate boil, and let it bubble for 20 minutes or so, to develop the flavors.
From Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy
Lidia Matticchio Bastianich was born in Pola, Istria, on the northeastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. She is a cookbook author, restaurateur, and TV chef extraordinaire. Watch Lidia’s Italy Saturdays at 1:30pm on WGBH 2 or Sundays at 4pm on WGBH 44."