Rustic lentil soup is full of nourishment, comfort, and flavor. A simmering pot of green lentils, tomatoes, carrots, celery, potatoes, and spices along with, if you’re so inclined, a triple threat of pork with sausage, bacon, and pancetta.
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
Rustic Lentil Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon (1/2 oz) unsalted butter 1/2 oz
- 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 homemade chicken stock or canned chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon 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 Italian sweet or hot sausage links (5 oz | 143 g)
- In a large stock pot, 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.
- Meanwhile, strain the chopped tomatoes through a fine-mesh sieve, pressing on the pulp to extract as much liquid as possible.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
*What can I substitute for green lentils?Green and Puy lentils are usually favored because of their texture and flavor, holding their shape well in both warm and cold dishes. If you can’t get green lentils, brown lentils do an excellent job of subbing in. Brown lentils hold their shape like the green variety and have a similar earthy taste. Be aware that they can cook a little more quickly, so start checking them earlier than you would with the green variety.
Vegetarian Rustic Lentil Soup variationOmit the pancetta, bacon, and sausage and substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock.
Sliced Sausage Rustic Lentil Soup variationInstead of crumbling and cooking the sausage, simply slice and pan sear before adding to the soup.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Originally published April 17, 2008