Rustic Lentil Soup

This soup turns up most often on the menu at the 91st Street restaurant, where our regulars love it during the cold, icy months when New York is gray and damp. It’s a hearty and warming soup, made even more so with the addition of sausage, bacon, and pancetta—all of which can be tossed aside to make this soup ideal for vegetarians, with vegetable stock standing in for the chicken stock. This is a terrific Sunday night family meal and a delicious leftover weekday meal.–Michael Ronis

LC Beware The Bay Leaf Note

Just a reminder, beware that bay leaf lurking somewhere amidst the murky depths of this lentil soup. It’s in there. But you want to find it before it’s tickling your—or your loved ones—tonsils. Don’t forget to find it and discard it before dispensing the soup into waiting bowls and bellies.

Rustic Lentil Soup Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 1 H, 45 M
  • Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces diced pancetta
  • 2 strips bacon, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 small plum tomatoes, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
  • 5 to 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups green lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 to 2 (about 5 ounces) Italian sweet or hot sausage links

Directions

  • 1. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat until the butter starts to foam. Add the pancetta and bacon and cook until the bacon is crisp, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic has softened, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and onions and cook until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes.
  • 2. Meanwhile, strain the chopped tomatoes through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the pulp to extract as much liquid as possible.
  • 3. Add 5 cups chicken stock to the pot and then stir in the strained tomato pulp, bay leaves, salt, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes, and black pepper. Add the lentils, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring the soup to a boil. Partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the soup for about 45 minutes.
  • 4. Add the potatoes and cook the soup for about 15 minutes more, stirring occasionally, or until the lentils and potatoes are tender. Add more chicken stock if the soup becomes too thick.
  • 5. Meanwhile, remove the casings from the sausage. In a small nonstick saute pan over high heat, cook the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, for 4 to 5 minutes or until it is nicely browned.
  • 6. Add the sausage and any fat remaining in the pan to the soup. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste the soup and add salt if necessary. Remove the bay leaves and serve.

Vegetarian Version

  • Omit the pancetta, bacon, and sausage and substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Susan Bingaman

Apr 17, 2008

This soup is seriously good, and it’s even better the day after. I like that it is a chop and drop kind of soup. It’s a snap to throw together—except for peeling tomatoes, a job I hate. I also like that it can be made to suit a vegetarian diet for those times when I want to serve the same dish to everyone.


Comments
Comments
  1. Testers Choice says:

    [David Tomberlin] This soup has wonderful “rustic” textures and flavors. The seasonings were perfect—no extra salt or pepper needed. I love lentils in any form or fashion, so I was excited to find that this exceeded expectations. When I make this the next time, I’d tweak the preparation and addition of the tomatoes, but that would be to just simplify the preparation, not to change the outcome. It’d be hard to find a recipe that starts with bacon and pancetta fat that doesn’t come out a winner.

  2. Testers Choice says:

    [Nil Taspinar] Very straightforward, albeit not a “quick and easy” recipe. It’s written perfectly, easy to follow, and the results were delicious. I’m not a big pork eater, and with three pork products here, I was a bit worried that it’d taste heavy, but that wasn’t the case. My only comment is that by using the hot Italian sausage on top of the red pepper flakes made for a “spicy” soup, but that was okay by me.

  3. Testers Choice says:

    [Nancy A. Mosher] Upon reading this recipe again, I was delighted to see that a vegetarian version was offered, as I don’t eat pork. Vegetarian soups are often lacking in flavor, but this soup certainly didn’t disappoint. It was delicious! The choice to use green lentils made for a very nicely textured dish in which many of the lentils held their shape while just enough of them melted into a thick purée. The pieces of carrots and potatoes added to the chunky texture. As the recipe says, with a nice loaf of bread, this is dinner.

  4. Testers Choice says:

    [Rachel Knox] This is a wonderful fall or winter soup. Really easy to make, and it’s tasty and robust. I think this is a great dish to have after being out in the cold. I topped it with chopped parsley and a bit of sea salt and served it with hearty rustic bread. It’s also a great way to clean out the fridge with leftover cured meats and vegetables.

  5. Testers Choice says:

    [Kim Graham] This soup was fantastic! My husband doesn’t generally love anything made with lentils, but I think this soup converted him. After several bites he declared that I should definitely make it again. I agree. It wasn’t difficult or especially time consuming, just a great soup to have bubbling away on the stove for Sunday dinner. I used hot Italian sausage which gave the soup a nice spicy edge.

  6. Testers Choice says:

    [Theodore Wanberg] As the author stated, the soup is a terrific for a cold blustery Sunday evening. We don’t have them here in Arizona, but the soup was still terrific. I don’t usually use fresh herbs in soups and stews, but I did here as I was following directions. Couldn’t tell if it made a difference, however. Even with using all five cups of stock, the soup was almost a stew, so I added another two cups. We’ll be enjoying this for the next several weeks.

  7. Testers Choice Testers Choice says:

    [Emily Fleak] This is a great go-to soup for the winter. I made a huge pot of it and put the extra in small containers in the freezer to pull out later. It is a meal in itself.

  8. Amy I says:

    Excellent recipe! I just made this and stuffed it in the freezer for my very pregnant cousin to eat in the coming weeks with a newborn in the house. It’s a hearty soup that I hope will nourish their hearts as well as their bellies. Thank you!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Amy, I hope we live in the same city one day when I am very pregnant. How very thoughtful of you! And yes, I think it will nourish their spirit, given the lovely and generous mojo behind the recipe.

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