Try my currently most favorite soup. It’s hearty, easy to prepare and so good!
January is National Soup Month. I didn’t know that until recently. I love soups. I think I mentioned it before. They are such comfort food, easy to make, easy to serve and you can make a big batch. If I’m busy working and don’t want to waste the “precious” natural light to step away and prepare my lunch, a bowl of hot soup will make me very happy.
The recipe for this soup first appeared in the book “Secrets of the Best Chefs” and it was given by Gina DePalma. She was a very talented chef, who worked at Mario Batali’s “Babbo” restaurant where she created, among other things, the dessert menu. Sadly, she passed away in December.
This soup is very hearty and full of flavor. It has the itsy-bitsy brown lentils with their mildly earthy flavor, Swiss chard (any variety) with its slightly sweet taste, and the Italian sausage flavored with potent fennel seeds. It reminds me a bit of the Italian Wedding Soup where small meatballs need to be cooked in a very aromatic broth with lots of vegetables. Here, you are not making meatballs (which saves time) but cook the sausage and add it to the remaining ingredients. You can cook everything in the same pot, actually. Serve it with a generous amount of freshly grated cheese and a drizzle of garlic oil.Start by browning the sausage. If you can only buy it in links, make sure to remove the casings. I like to use about 1/2 lb of bulk sweet Italian sausage or 2 sausages (freeze the rest for next time). Brown the sausage and break the clumps while cooking. Add chopped onion, 2 garlic cloves, celery and carrots. Cook for 5-7 minutes until the vegetables become aromatic. Next, add rinsed lentils, chopped tomatoes with their juices, 6 cups of water and spices. Bring to boil, then simmer covered for about 45 minutes, until lentils become tender.When the lentils are cooked, remove the bay leaves and add chopped Swiss chard. You can use rainbow Swiss chard or kale if that’s what you have. Kale should go into the pot at the same time lentils are added, though. Cook the soup for additional 5 minutes after adding the chopped chard.
To make the garlic oil, thinly slice 2-3 garlic cloves and cook them in about 1/4 cup of olive oil until the garlic sizzles, about 30 seconds. Watch it closely the whole time since it burns very easily.Serves: 4-6 Prep time: 15 minutes Ready in: 1 hr 15 min
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 lb sweet Italian sausage in bulk or 2-3 links, casings removed
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
- 1 28-oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 cups of water
- 3-4 large Swiss chard leaves and stems, thinly cut (about 3 cups total)
- freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
Garlic oil: thinly slice 2-3 garlic cloves and briefly cook them in 1/4 cup of olive oil until sizzle and get crunchy. Drizzle on top before serving.
- In a large pot heat up the olive oil and add the sausage. Cook until brown, stirring and breaking up the clumps. Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cook until onion gets translucent and vegetables soften up a bit, about 7 minutes. Add the lentils, crushed tomatoes, bay leaves and water. Bring to a boil, then simmer until lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. Adjust seasonings.
- Remove the bay leaves. Add chopped chard and cook additional 5 minutes. If the soup seems thick add more water.
- To make the garlic oil, using a small skillet, cook sliced garlic cloves in olive oil for about 20-30 seconds.
- Serve with a good sprinkle of cheese and a drizzle of garlic oil.