My Lentil Soup

soup

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (or, if this is your first visit, welcome!), you may have noticed that I don’t always publish a recipe when I cook a new dish and report the results. When I follow the instructions of someone else’s recipe, I’m more comfortable providing a link or a reference to the original. I just don’t feel like it’s my recipe to post unless I’ve significantly changed at least one of the steps or ingredients.

But of course I often cook from my personal recipe collection. I have a few old standards, dishes that I’ve made so often and tailored to my tastes that I fully claim them as my own. One of these is my lentil soup.

I adapted my recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, which also happens to be the first cookbook I ever bought for myself: A Fresh Taste of Italy by Michele Scicolone. Almost all of the pages are curled and dog-eared, splattered with various sauces and dusted with flour or cornmeal. During my first years out of college I basically learned how to cook from this book, and I still turn to it for advice when roasting a chicken or making pizza dough.

My lentil soup is a basic recipe, really, using brown or green lentils simmered with carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and tomatoes. Over the years I’ve added more tomatoes than called for in Scicolone’s original recipe. And instead of finishing the soup with escarole I add spinach, cooking it for a few minutes until it is just wilted. When I lived alone I made this soup at least twice a month during the winter, tinkering with it and memorizing the steps until it truly became my own. It comforts me in a way that no other dish does, perhaps because it’s attached to those early years of independence and culinary experimentation.

I made it recently after a long hiatus, during one of those freezing nights we experienced last week. As I spooned the soup into my bowl, I inhaled the familiar aroma of meaty lentils and sweet tomatoes. Hearty and rustic, with bright spots of orange carrots and green spinach swimming in a sea of steaming legumes, it was as satisfying as I remembered. And it was all mine.

Christina’s Lentil Soup (adapted from Michele Scicolone’s recipe for Lentil and Escarole Soup in A Fresh Taste of Italy)

  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 cup chopped canned Italian tomatoes
  • 1 cup of brown or green lentils
  • 1 head of fresh spinach, washed and chopped
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese

Rinse the lentils and set them aside, picking out any small stones. Set them aside.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat a few glugs of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and carrot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to soften. This will take about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the lentils to the pot. Add 4 1/2 cups cold water and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 25 to 30 minutes, covered, until the lentils are tender. Season with salt and pepper.

When the lentils are cooked, stir in the spinach. It will look like too much, but spinach cooks down quite a bit. Cook until the spinach is just wilted. If the soup seems a little too thick for your taste, stir in a bit more water. You may want to do this when heating up any leftovers as well.

Serve hot, with grated cheese. Serves 4 hungry people. Enjoy!

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6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    limeandlemon said,

    This sounds and looks really delicious .. love it … Laila .. http://limeandlemon.wordpress.com

  2. 2

    applec said,

    That looks delicious. I love escarole though, so I would most likely use escarole. Your blog is a great find!

  3. 3

    Christina said,

    Laila–Thanks! It usually is delicious!

    AppleC–Thanks for stopping by! I’m sure the soup would taste wonderful with escarole; it’s funny, I can’t remember what made me try it with spinach. I actually think any sort of green would work.

  4. 4

    emilyhall said,

    Hi! I’ve been making Marcella Hazan’s version for a million years–no greens, and with pancetta, otherwise the same. But I love the idea of escarole or spinach at the end. I’m definitely trying that next time. You just let it wilt?

  5. 5

    Christina said,

    Emily–Whoah, simultaneous posting! But yes, I wait until the spinach wilts and then I remove the soup from the heat. I don’t want to overcook the spinach. I’ve recently thought of adding pancetta as well. I bet it would taste great!

  6. 6

    hurstbeans said,

    This lentil recipe looks great, and I like the idea of adding wilted greens…

    I actually just recently posted a confetti lentil recipe and if you have a chance, check it out!

    http://hurstbeanblog.com/2009/03/11/confetti-lentil-soupreme%E2%84%A2/

    Thanks


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