What could be better than a warm hearty bowl of lentil soup with some crusty French bread on a cold and rainy day? Lentil soup is so easy to make and satisfying. This is my mother’s basic recipe, sans the pancetta, which is my addition. I have a debate going with one of my aunts on whether lentil soup tastes better with the addition of pancetta or Italian sausage. The pancetta won out in my case; but, you can substitute 1 pound of browned Italian sausage in place of the pancetta if you prefer. You can also serve this soup over cooked rice or add small cooked shells or tubettini pasta to the soup.
Lentil Soup (Minestra di Lentticchie or Zuppa di Lentichie)
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes 6 servings.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced pancetta (optional)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup diced fennel bulb
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
7 cups chicken broth or water
1 pound dried lentils
2 plum tomatoes, diced
1 bay leaf
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
Heat olive oil in a large covered pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, fennel, carrots, celery, and pancetta if using. Saute until onions become soft and translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the chicken broth, lentils, tomatoes, and bay leaf. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Add more chicken stock or water if necessary to get desired consistency. Cover and simmer over low heat until lentils are tender, about 35 to 40 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Remove bay leaf. Using a potato masher, mash some of the lentils to slightly thicken the soup, leaving most of the lentils whole. Ladle into serving bowls and serve with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and freshly ground pepper on top.