Simple Italian lentil soup

February 6, 2012 at 2:39 pm (Beans, B_minus (2.5 stars), Della Croce, Fall recipes, Italian, Julia, soup, Winter recipes)

I have a lot of recipes for lentil soup on my blog already.  I have three recipes that call for brown lentils (my mom’s recipe, a simple version with only five ingredients, and a version with quinoa), plus three recipes for red lentil soup (Turkish, curried, and one with lemon and spinach).  So I have no idea why I decided to try another pretty basic looking lentil soup recipe.  This one comes from Julia Della Croce’s cookbook The Vegetarian Table: Italy.


  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 6 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil [I used 4 Tbs.]
  • 4 green onions, including 3 inches of green tops, finely chopped [I used all the green tops]
  • 2 small carrot, peeled and finely chopped [I didn’t peel mine]
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh Italian parsley [I added more as a garnish]
  • 2 small celery stalks, including the leaves, finely chopped
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 cup peeled, seeds, and chopped fresh or canned plum tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 10 cups vegetable broth [mine was homemade and unsalted]
  • 2 1/2 cups (1 pound) lentils, rinsed and picked over [I used the big green/brown ones]
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly milled black pepper
  • 2 tsp. salt [I used Morton kosher salt]


  1. In a five-quart Dutch oven or heavy stockpot over medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil.  Add the green onions, garlic, parsley, and celery and leaves; saute gently, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 12 minutes.  Add the bay leaves, tomatoes, tomato paste, and 1 tablespoon of the broth.  Stir to distribute.
  2. Add the lentils to the vegetable mixture and stir over low heat.  Add 1 cup of the broth and cover with the lid ajar.  When the broth is absorbed, add another cup.  Continue adding the broth in this manner until all of it has been absorbed, keeping the heat low all the while.  Keep the pan partially covered when you are not adding liquid.  The lentils should take about 40 minutes to cook from the time the first cup of broth is added.
  3. Discard the bay leaves.  Season with the salt and pepper.  Serve hot.

Makes enough for eight moderate sized bowls of soup.  Serves about four to six as a main dish, and eight a course in a larger meal.

My notes:

I don’t really get the risotto-style of cooking.  The recipe’s headnotes say that with this method you retain the vitamins, unlike with the more typical method of boiling and draining the lentils.  But who drains lentils when making lentil soup?  The recipe in the cookbook is actually called “lentil casserole” so maybe it’s supposed to end up more dry, but mine ended up very much like a soup.  I guess you could try reducing the liquid and maybe you’d end up with more of a casserole.  Still, the reason you add the broth slowly when making risotto has something to do with the different kinds of starch in the rice.  I can’t imagine that lentils would work the same.

The recipe calls for salted vegetable broth, but I used unsalted and low-salt canned tomatoes, and the soup ended up plenty salty.  So if you use salted vegetable broth I’d definitely cut the salt down.  I added the salt earlier in the cooking process, since I find that when you add salt at the end of cooking the lentils never really absorb the flavor.  Despite the early salt and acid, the lentils softened up nicely, although it did take longer than 40 minutes.

This soup was okay tasting when eaten plain, but really tasty when eaten with lowfat plain yogurt.  It needed the extra sourness I think.

This recipe has more fat than my other lentil soup recipes, and you definitely notice the extra richness in the mouthfeel.  I thought the extra fat would make the soup more filling and satisfying, and although it was pretty filling, neither Derek nor I felt satisfied after eating two small bowls each.  Derek thought it was a textural thing–nothing to chew on.

The original recipe is actually only half of the recipe above, but if you’re going to make this recipe I think it’s probably worth making more than 2-3 servings.  If you think it makes too much I imagine the soup would freeze well.

Rating: B

Derek: B

1 Comment

  1. Desi Cabrera said,

    It’s a good enough recipe for a quick and simple lentil fix. I LOVE lentils, so I do like to try different variations. As a participant of the Meatless Monday’s initiative at my office, we’re always sharing a vegetarian recipe. Today’s is a Moroccan Vegetable Tagine. Drop by and take a look when you get a chance. Bon Appetit!

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