Italian Lentil Soup

When I was a girl we often spent Sundays (after church services) visiting relatives, and wherever we went we were offered food. One of my aunts was a gifted cook. She did not have a huge or fancy repertoire, but the dishes she made were simply delicious. I always looked forward to visiting her because she was a lot of fun and a great story teller. I learned a lot about my Sicilian family sitting around her table. She enjoyed being in the kitchen and sharing food with people she loved. Among her dishes my favorites included gently simmered sausage, stuffed cabbage, and lentil soup. When I married and moved away I missed her and her food. Whenever I went home to visit I made sure to see her, and she always had the lentils and stuffed cabbage waiting for me. I have her rough instructions for lentil soup but she never measured anything, so when I made the soup it never tasted as good as hers. Until now. After years of trying to duplicate her lentils I realized that she made the soup brothy and not so thick. Once I began using more stock and fewer lentils and pasta the dish came out right. It is one of the most comforting dinners on a cold and snowy winter night and my family loves it. My aunt is no longer able to care for herself or cook, but whenever I make lentils I think of her and she is right there with me.

Italian Lentil Soup
11 c. chicken, beef or vegetable broth (I like to mix all three together)
1 c. dried lentils, rinsed
1 ham bone or 1/3 c. cooked chopped bacon
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 large leek, cleaned and chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/4 bunch fresh flat leaf parsley
2 fresh bay leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1-1/2 c. cooked spaghetti or angel hair pasta

In a 6-quart stockpot combine broth, lentils, and a ham bone or cooked bacon. Bring to a boil on medium heat, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes. While the broth and lentils are cooking, heat olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. When hot, add onions and sauté for 5 minutes to begin softening. Add garlic and leek. Cook for 5 minutes, then add celery, carrots, and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt and pepper to taste. Cook 5 minutes, then spoon vegetables into the broth and lentils. Add parsley, bay leaves, thyme, remaining salt, and some pepper. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste to see if lentils are tender; if not, cook 5 minutes longer and check again. Add cooked pasta and let simmer 5 minutes. Take ham bone out of the soup pot, along with the parsley stems and bay leaves. Remove bits of meat from the bone and place in the soup. You can serve with bread if desired. Serves 6.

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This entry was posted in Grains, Pasta, Soups. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Italian Lentil Soup

  1. Eva-Marie says:

    Sounds delicious! I’ll have to try to make this:)

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