There’s something about beans and legumes that make you feel so good about yourself when eating them. Making them taste fantastic is easy, because they pick up all of the great flavours that they cook with. I was inspired to make this soup after reading through an old Italian cookbook that I came across by Marcella Hazan, a book that is truly written from the heart.
In ‘The Classic Italian Cookbook’ every ingredient bears importance, as does the order in which they are added. I was tempted to cheat on this recipe (as I often don’t really follow them), but for some reason her words spoke to me and I knew I had to follow her directions. The slow simmer of the tomatoes before adding the lentils, and the importance of using homemade broth. If you have turkey stock leftover from the holidays, that would work, or you could make a quick broth using a beef shank, some onion, carrot and herbs, and then shred the meat into the soup afterwards.
- 2 tbsp finely chopped yellow onion
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp finely chopped celery
- 2 tbsp finely chopped carrot
- 1/3 cup diced pancetta
- 1 cup canned Italian tomatoes, with their juice
- 1/2 lb of green or brown lentils, washed and drained
- 4 cups homemade broth (chicken or beef)
- salt, to taste; freshly ground black pepper, about 8 twists
- 3 tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
Sauté the onion with the oil and 2 tbsp of the butter over medium-high heat until golden;
Add celery and carrot and cook for 2-3 minutes;
Add the pancetta and sauté for one more minute;
Add the tomatoes, lower the heat and cook slowly for 25 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally;
Add the lentils, stir to coat, add the broth and salt and pepper;
Cover, and cook at a steady simmer or until the lentils are tender, about 45 minutes, but this can vary from lentil to lentil;
Let the soup out with more broth or water if it becomes too thick;
When the lentils are cooked, correct the seasoning, then, off of the heat, swirl in the remaining butter and the grated cheese. Serve with more cheese and olive oil if desired.