Today was a rather dreary day weather-wise. It was overcast and rainy....the perfect kind of day to cook up a big pot of soup or stew. I would say that this recipe falls somewhere between the two. It's hearty and definitely warms the tummy.
In Italy lentils hold a special significance, especially on New Year's Eve/Day, where they're a required part of the menu. They symbolize wealth (their shape being reminiscent of tiny coins) and are eaten in hopes that the new year will be a prosperous one. That has never been a part of our family tradition....I just enjoy them because they're really good and are a great source of protein, iron, and fiber. Try making this on a cold day and see if it doesn't warm you right up.
Rustic Lentil Soup ( adapted from Carmine's Family-Style Cookbook by Michael Ronis
with Mary Goodbody)
2 tblsp. olive oil
1 tblsp. unsalted butter
2 ounces diced pancetta
2 strips bacon, diced
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 small plum tomatoes, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
7-8 cups chicken stock (this depends on how thick you like your soup)
2 bay leaves (3 if small)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp. fresh oregano leaves
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups green lentils, rinsed and drained
1 russet potato, peeled and diced
10 ounces Italian sausage, removed from casings and nicely browned and crumbled in a skillet
Chopped Italian parsley, for garnish
Parmigiano Reggiano for grating at the table
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large stockpot over medium heat until the butter starts to foam. Add the pancetta and bacon and cook until the bacon is crispy, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1-2 minutes until softened. Add the carrots, celery, and onions and cook for 10-12 minutes or until they're tender and lightly browned.
Strain the chopped tomatoes through a fine sieve, pressing on the pulp to get out as much of the juice as you can. (Note: to peel tomatoes, cut a small x in the bottom of the tomato and place in a pan of boiling water for about 1 min. Remove and place in bowl of ice water for a bit. The skins should be loosened and come right off) Add 5 cups of the chicken stock to the pot and then stir in the strained tomato pulp and the seasonings. Add the lentils, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and partially cover the pot. Cook for about 45 minutes.
Add 1 cup more stock and the potatoes and cook about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and lentils are tender, but not mushy. Add 1 more cup stock along with the browned sausage and simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed. Remove the bay leaves and serve, garnished with the parsley and topped with the grated cheese. (Serves 6-8) ** This could also be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock and eliminating the pancetta, bacon, and sausage.