My father-in-law makes the best lentil soup and it is the most basic and simplest of recipe. I couldn’t believe how simple and easy it was because the soup itself tasted much more complex. I had him demonstrate it for me one day since I refused to believe it could be so simple.
He calls this “soffritto”, but it’s just garlic, onions and tomatoes and does not contain the more traditional ingredients such as celery, carrots and parsley.
He fries them up until they are quite golden brown. Then, he adds them to the already boiling and just about tender lentils. He adds some chopped celery and frozen broccoli and boil until everything is tender, may be another 15 minutes. A little salt and pepper and it’s delicious.
Of course, I can’t leave his recipe alone and have to mess with it.
I start with garlic and onion, too.
Add some chopped tomatoes.
Fry them up until they are tender.
And the tomatoes have really broken down.
Then, this is where I deviate. I add chopped celery and carrots. Then, I add vegetable stock instead of water, the lentils and boil until just about tender if I’m adding chopped broccoli. Add broccoli until fully done. Or add the spinach when the soup is pretty much done.
I think I missed taking photo of one or two of the steps. This one shows with the lentils and vegetable stock already added.
And here is the finished product, this version contains spinach instead of the chopped broccoli. I make it both ways just for change of pace and they are both really good.
ETA: Somehow I published this without the recipe so here it is!
Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time 45 minutes – 1 hour
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chopped sweet onion
2 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, sliced into half moons or chopped
1 pound dry lentils (green or brown), picked and rinsed
2 quarts water or vegetable stock
2 bay leaves
6 ounces chopped broccoli (fresh or frozen) or baby spinach
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, fry garlic and onions in olive oil until softened. Add tomatoes and sauté until the tomatoes start to break down and release the juice. Add celery and carrots with a little more olive oil and saute for another minute. Add the lentils, water or vegetable stock and the bay leaves and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer and cook until lentils are just about tender, about 35 minutes. If the soup becomes too thick, add more stock or water to thin out. Remove the bay leaves.
If using broccoli, add at this time and cook another 5 – 10 minutes until broccoli is tender.
If using spinach, add when lentils are fully tender. Stir in the spinach and cook for another minute or two until all the spinach has softened.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Note: I think another lovely substitute vegetable would be swiss chard instead broccoli or spinach, but I haven’t tried it yet. Also, this may sound strange, but we love to eat lentil soup over plain white steamed rice, a lá Korean style or Indian style with dal. I tend to make the soup a little thicker for that purpose. A sprinkle of fresh grated pecorino romano cheese is a nice touch. And finally, this soup freezes very well. I always make the full pound of lentils so I can freeze 1/2 and use for quick dinners or lunches.