To make the ‘soffritto’ (sautéed base flavouring), heat the olive oil in a heavy-based stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, thyme and bay leaves then cook, stirring, for a few minutes until the onion is soft.
Stir in the tomato paste and lentils, then pour 2 litres water into the stockpot. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover and leave to simmer for 40 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
Discard the bay leaves. Add the ditali pasta, referring to the cooking time specified in pasta packet instructions (we add 1 minute extra cooking time of the pasta for this recipe).
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top – buon appetito.
250g (8oz) red or green lentils, rinsed under running cold water|2 tablespoons (40ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve|1 small onion, finely chopped|1 carrot, finely chopped|1 stalk celery, cut in half lengthways and finely chopped|1 sprig thyme, finely chopped|2 bay leaves|70g Italian tomato paste|200g ditali pasta|Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper