Lentil soup is a favorite dish in our family, especially during the cold, damp winter months. My mother has been making lentil soup for as long as I can remember, and my late mother-in-law always made it, too. This recipe I’m sharing with you is more along the lines of how my mother makes them, which my kids prefer. My mother-in-law made them with “broken” spaghetti (she would break the long strands of spaghetti with her hands and throw them into the soup), lots of chopped garlic and Italian parsley. Both recipes are delicious in their own way and I make each of them all winter long.
Lentils have significance this time of year in the Italian culture. The tiny flat, round legumes are said to resemble coins. At the start of a new year, they are eaten to symbolize prosperity and good fortune in the coning year. Lentils are a very healthful food to consume regularly; they have tremendous health benefits, including improved heart health and digestion, lowering cholesterol and contributing to weight loss. Be sure to make this dish part of your family’s winter meal rotation!
- Lentils are very delicate; as they absorb the cooking liquid, they will soften. Do not overcook them, as they will fall apart and become very mushy if you do.
- We like to eat our lentil soup with lots of freshly grated cheese! After all, we are Italian and hard cheese is served with almost everything!
- You can add a bay leaf to the soup for another flavor profile. Just be sure to remove it before serving, as it’s not edible.
- Add the additional stock or water a little at a time to fully cook the lentils. The method of cooking lentils is very similar to cooking risotto.
- To serve, bring the pot to the table or ladle into individual bowls. Serve with crusty bread and a salad for the perfect, comforting winter meal!
Hearty Lentil Soup
- 1 1/2 cups dry lentils
- 5 organic carrots, chopped
- 2 organic celery hearts, finely chopped
- Half of a large shallot, finely chopped
- 2 large cloves of garlic, smashed
- Olive oil (just enough to coat the bottom of the sauce pot)
- 32 ounce carton of low sodium, gluten free chicken stock, plus more stock or water
- About 1 heaping tablespoon of tomato paste
- Salt, black pepper
- Crushed red pepper
- Step 1 Place the lentils in a bowl of cold water and rinse and soak. Set aside while you prepare the vegetables.
- Step 2 Heat the olive oil in the pot and add in the carrots, celery, shallot and garlic.
- Step 3 Season with a pinch of salt and crushed red pepper.
- Step 4 Sautee for a few minutes over medium-low
- Step 5 heat, then add the tomato paste.
- Step 6 Stir to break up the tomato paste and cook it slightly.
- Step 7 Once the vegetables begin to soften slightly, drain the lentils and add them to the pot. Stir to mix with the vegetables. Season with salt and black pepper.
- Step 8 Pour in the chicken broth, stir and cover. Bring to a boil, then educe the heat immediately to a gentle simmer, keeping the pot covered.
- Step 9 Simmer until the lentils and vegetables are tender. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
- Step 10 NOTE: lentils absorb liquid as they cook/swell. Keep an eye on your liquid level as they cook. You may need to add more chicken stock (or water) if they are still too hard.