It’s finally soup season and one of my favorites is this week’s hearty lentil minestrone.
Although the list of ingredients is somewhat long, everything is available at the supermarket and the soup comes together surprisingly quickly.
I start the soup with a flavor base of pancetta, bacon or prosciutto, along with aromatics – chopped onion and celery and shredded carrots. If you’d prefer to prepare a vegetarian version of the recipe, just omit the pancetta, bacon or prosciutto.
I like to cook the pasta separately when preparing this soup so that it doesn’t absorb all of the liquid when stored in the refrigerator.
When serving, just spoon some of the pasta into a wide soup bowl and ladle the soup over the top.
The lentils are a quick cooking legume – taking just 25 minutes to become tender – making this a perfect soup to prepare on a busy weeknight.
Leftovers can be reheated in the microwave for an at-work lunch.
A sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan can finish off each serving. Serve tossed salad and crusty bread.
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
1/4 pound pancetta, bacon or prosciutto, chopped, optional
1 cup finely chopped onion, about 1 small onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery, about 2 ribs
1/2 cup shredded carrots, about 1 1/2 small carrots
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons minced garlic, about 2 large cloves
1 teaspoon Italian seasonings
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 cup brown lentils
1 14.5 ounce can petite diced tomatoes
5 cups water or reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 cup small macaroni pasta, cooked according to package directions for al dente then rinsed and drained
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add the prosciutto, pancetta or bacon, if using, and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the stock pot and then add the onion, celery and carrots and sprinkle with a little salt.
Saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, Italian seasonings and crushed red pepper flakes and sauté 1 minute.
Stir in the lentils, tomatoes, water, bay leaf and cooked prosciutto, pancetta or bacon.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
Remove the bay leaf, taste and season to taste with salt and pepper.
While the soup simmers, cook the pasta according to package directions, drain and set aside.
When the soup is done, spoon some of the pasta into soup bowls and ladle some of the soup over the top.
Drizzle each serving with a little olive oil, if desired, and sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese.
Makes 6-8 servings.