This Rich Lentil Soup was inspired by a meal my family ate at our favorite restaurant—the Trattoria Il Paninoon Boston's North End. It was a bitter cold day when we arrived at the trattoria one Saturday in December. Seated at our favorite table, our waiter could tell by the redness in our cheeks that we needed something hot and restorative. He brought us this soup, along with tales of his hometown in Italy where they eat this soup on New Year's Eve at midnight accompanied by bubbly Prosecco. As we ate the soup that night, we were transported to the warmth of the Amalfi Coast of Italy. We knew that this soup would become a part of our celebrations. Enriched with a hearty meat broth and infused with the flavors of both crispy pancetta and sweet Italian sausages, this lentil soup is out of this world. Make it a part of your family's celebrations, any day of the week. And don't forget the Prosecco.
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
AMALFI COAST RICH LENTIL SOUP
Yield: 4 Servings
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 ounces imported pancetta, shredded*
- 1 small onion, peeled and chopped finely
- 1 small carrot, peeled and chopped finely
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- 1 spring celery, chopped finely
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 cup canned Italian tomatoes, puréed
- ½ pound dried French lentils, rinsed in cool water*
- 4 cups beef stock plus a bit more, as needed
- Salt and freshly ground black peppercorns
- ½ pound Italian sausage links, casings removed
- Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for garnish at serving
- 1 bottle chilled Prosecco, at serving time
- Italian bread or fresh bread sticks, at serving time
- Put three tablespoons olive oil in a large soup pot. Place the pot on the stove and turn the heat to high. When the oil starts to sizzle, add the shredded pancetta. Cook it until the pancetta begins to brown. Lower the heat to medium.
- Add the chopped onion, carrot, garlic and celery. Toss the vegetables with the cooked pancetta and continue to cook until they are softened and the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. You'll want to stir them occasionally, taking care not to burn the onion and garlic Add the dried spices. Toss the spices with the cooked vegetables and cook a minute more, to bring out their flavors.
- Add the puréed tomatoes to the pan. Toss them with the cooked vegetables. Add the lentils, toss again, then add the stock. Stir one more time. Bring the liquid to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are fully softened, about 45 minutes.*
- While the soup is simmering, heat a heavy cast iron skillet large enough to hold the Italian sausage. Add one tablespoon olive oil to the pan and adjust the heat to high. When the oil starts to sizzle, add the Italian sausage. Brown the sausage on all sides, then lower the heat to medium and cover the pan. Cook until the sausages have cooked through, about 10 to twenty minutes depending on the thickness of the sausages.
- Using oven mitts, carefully pour the oil accumulated in the cast iron pan into the simmering soup, scraping off any browned bits that have collected at the bottom of the pan. (The oil will be hot and might splatter, hence the need for extra care at this step.) Stir the soup.
- When the sausages are cool enough to handle, slice them into pieces about 1-inch thick.
- When the lentils are fully cooked in the cook pot, take the soup off the stove and allow it to cool slightly. Using an immersion blender, partially purée the soup so that some of the lentils and vegetables remain whole. (If you do not have an immersion blender, using a slotted spoon, take out some of the solid lentils and vegetables from the cooked soup. Purée in a traditional blender or food processor, and return the puréed vegetables to the soup pot.)
- Heat the soup through again. If it is too thick, add some more stock to thin it to your desired consistency. Taste. Add salt and pepper as needed. Add the cooked sausage chunks and stir them fully into the soup.
- When you are ready to serve the soup, spoon it into individual serving bowls and pass around the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
- Uncork the Prosecco. Accompany the soup with the chilled Prosecco ample amounts of Italian bread or fresh bread sticks.