Saturday, November 26, 2005

Lentil Soup with Spinach and Pasta

I made this lentil soup a couple of weeks ago. I'd been in the mood for lentil soup for a little while and had just paid a visit to my eye doctor who reminded me I should eat five servings of leafy green vegetables a week.

Generally when I make lentil soup, I use one of two recipes in Good & Garlicky, Thick & Hearty, Soul-Satisfying, More-Than-Minestrone Italian Soup Cookbook (a wonderful book, despite its title). So I was, no doubt, strongly influenced by this book in coming up with my own recipe. For one, this book introduced me to pancetta - something I now consider a staple and keep on hand in the freezer (it's easier to chop when frozen anyway).

While I didn't consult the book in throwing together this soup, the ingredients are similar (except for the spinach - see above). The proportions however, were purely for convenience. I hate having small amounts of tomato or stock leftover. It seems I never get around to using them and they inevitably wind up in the trash or down the drain (I know I should be whipping up some little masterpiece a la Paper Chef, but it just never happens).

The other thing that's a little different about this soup is that I used these Umbrian lentils that I bought on sale a while back. They're sort of like the French green lentils in that they maintain their shape and don't fall apart when cooked. They're smoother than the French lentils though, and uncooked come in a seemingly endless variety of shades of brown and green.

I loved the soup, but then I always love lentil soup. This is such a slap dash recipe, I'm afraid it proves nothing about my competence in the kitchen. It only proves you can't go wrong with lentils.

Lentil Soup with Spinach and Pasta

3-4 tbs olive oil
1 thick slice of pancetta (about 1 ounce), finely diced
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups lentils
2 quarts (8 cups) chicken stock (I used Whole Foods)
28 oz can of Italian plum tomatoes (I broke out the can of real San Marzano DOP tomatoes that I'd been saving for a rainy day) , roughly chopped & with juice
1 1/2 cups small pasta
1 bunch spinach, heavy stems removed and coarsely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook a couple of minutes until the fat is rendered (you probably shouldn't brown it, but seems I always do). Add the onion and garlic and cook a few minutes more until the onions are translucent. Stir the lentils into the mixture and cook for a minute or so then add the stock. Cover the pot and raise the heat to high. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low (just high enough to maintain a simmer) and cook for 30 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Add the spinach and cook for a minute or two longer. Season to taste. Makes lots.


Cerebrum said...

That soup looks like something that's PERFECT for the kind of weather we have here... I don't think I've ever had lentil soup - gotta change that! Lovely picture, too!

Anonymous said...

What an absolutely gorgeous photo! The soup sounds very, very good, too. I've not had lentils in a while...need to swap them out for the black bean madness around the breadbox lately! :)

Amy Sherman said...

I can practically taste that soup looking at the perfect photo. Nice one.

Cathy said...

Thanks Zarah! I never had lentil soup until about 3 years ago - it was love at first bite. You really should try some!

Hi Alice! Thanks so much! Aren't beans just the best! :)

Hi Amy - thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

Yum Yum
This soup is right up my alley! And I love the colors! I just bought some lentils last week and I have been poking around for a good recipe. Thanks!!

Cathy said...

Thanks Raquel! I like the colors too - they're sort of like the Italian flag. Hope you like the soup!