Now that most of us are sufficiently cold, we need a good warm up! This is the perfect soup for cozying up your winter nights. It's a recipe I've tweaked from one of our favorite cookbooks, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I've made this soup at least a dozen times this year.
It's not your typical lentil soup... it's rich and creamy...almost more like a risotto consistency than soup. You can serve it as part of a meal, but I love enjoying it as the main course. It's just that good.
I've tried making different tweaks to the original and finally have my go to recipe down pat. You can substitute bacon for pancetta, or veggie broth for the beef broth. But I do think the pancetta and beef broth make the ideal combo with this. One of my fave substitutions is using pearl parley for arborio rice, it's healthier and gives a chewy bite to this yummy soup.
The Best Lentil Soup
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 onion, chopped very fine
1/3 cup chopped pancetta or bacon
1 carrot, chopped fine
1 stalk celery, chopped fine
1 1/2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
1/2 pound dried lentils (I like red)
1/2 cup arborio rice or pearl barley
4 cups beef broth
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
1. Put 2 tablespoons of the butter and all of the oil in a soup pot, add the chopped onion and pancetta and turn on the heat to medium high. Do not cover the pot. Cook the onion, stirring it, until it becomes a deep gold.
2. Add the chopped carrot and celery. Cook on medium for 2 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the tomatoes with their juice, and adjust the heat so that they bubble gently, but steadily. Cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. In the meantime, wash the lentils in cold water and drain them. Add the lentils to the pot, stirring throughly to coat them well, then add the rice, broth, water a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover the pot, adjust the heat so that the soup cooks at a steady, gently simmer, and stir from time to time. Generally, it will take about 45 minutes for the lentils to become tender, but each lot of lentils varies, so it is necessary to monitor their progress by tasting them. Some lentils will absorb more liquid than others. If necessary, add more broth or water while cooking.
5. When the lentils are done, turn off the heat and stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and grated Parmesan. Taste and correct for salt and pepper.
I can't wait for you guys to make this soup! What is your go-to soup for a cold day?