Deeply satisfying, nutritious and cheap, an Italian lentil soup recipe is great to see you through chilly evenings or even to take to work with you for a heartening lunch. Simple and delicious made with water, if you happen to have some ham stock left over from your Christmas gammon this lentil soup becomes a real feast, the smokiness of the ham adding even more depth to the earthy lentils.
The great thing about this recipe is that you can make it easily from store-cupboard standbys, as long as you remember to keep brown lentils in stock. It is even better with the tiny brown lentils from Puy in France or Castelluccio in Italy, but plain brown or green lentils still make a really good and tasty soup.
Recipe for Lentil Soup
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
25g / 1 oz butter
40g / 1 ½ oz pancetta or bacon (optional)
220g / 8oz chopped tinned tomatoes
220g / 8oz dried brown lentils
1 litre / 1 ¾ pints stock or water
salt and pepper
freshly grated parmesan cheese to serve
Put the oil and the butter in a heavy based pan and sauté the onion over a medium heat until light gold.
Add the carrot ad celery and continue to cook for 3 more minutes stirring occasionally.
Add the pancetta or bacon if using and cook for another minute.
Stir in the chopped tomatoes with their juice and cook uncovered at a gently simmer for 20-25 minutes until the liquid is gone. Stir from time to time.
Rinse the lentils and check for grit then add them to the tomato mix stirring them in. Add the broth and season with salt and pepper.
Cook covered at a simmer until the lentils are tender, about 45 minutes. They may need more liquid, in which case add a little more stock or water. Check for salt.
Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese and some crusty bread.
This makes a great vegetarian dish if you leave out the bacon and use vegetable stock. For vegans adapt the recipe further, by using more olive oil instead of butter and leave off the parmesan cheese.
Don’t feel like cooking tonight after all? Why not try the delicious Mediterranean food at Shaw’s restaurant in Nottingham.