This comforting soup is dinner in a bowl
Warming food that’s simple, quick, and tasty? Bring it on!
This meaty, spicy Italian Sausage and Lentil Soup is easy enough for weeknight dinner, but flavorful enough for sharing with friends. Like, when you’re watching a big game on TV.
We hear there might be a super-big one coming up soon.
Recipe: Italian Sausage and Lentil Soup
You can use either “hot” or “sweet” Italian sausage for this dish. Both varieties use the same basic ingredients, but the hot variety has red pepper added. BTW, Italian sausage typically contains fennel, giving it a prominent anise taste. If you don’t favor that flavor, just substitute another sausage.
We use dried lentils in this recipe because they’re quick-cooking and taste great. But you could use canned white beans or chickpeas if you prefer.
Prep time for this dish is about 15 minutes. Cooking time adds another 35 minutes, mostly unattended.
This recipe makes several large servings, so we always have leftovers. They keep for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container, or for at least two months if stored in the freezer.
- 1 pound dried lentils
- 1 onion (about 1 cup when chopped)
- 3 cloves garlic (or to taste)
- ~3 carrots (about 1 cup when chopped)
- 1 rib celery
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (or other oil of choice)
- salt to taste (about ½ to 1 teaspoon kosher salt for us; see Notes)
- 1 to 1½ pounds Italian sausage links (sweet or hot; see headnote)
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste; optional)
- 1 to 2 teaspoons dried oregano (or other herb of choice; see Notes)
- 6 to 8 cups chicken stock or water (water works fine, but chicken stock has more flavor; to taste)
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
- ~½ pound fresh spinach
- Open the bag of lentils, pour them out on a flat surface (we use a rimmed baking sheet so none escape), and pick through them to remove any stones or dirt. Place the lentils in a large bowl, add water, then let them soak while you proceed with the recipe.
- Peel the onion and cut it into dice of about ½ inch. Set aside.
- Peel the garlic and mince it finely or cut it into thin slices. Set aside.
- Peel the carrots (scrub them first if you wish), cut off the ends, then slice the carrots into thin rounds or half-moons. Set aside.
- Wash and dry the celery, remove the strings, then cut it into thin slices. Set aside.
- Heat a large soup pot (use one that holds at least 4 quarts) over medium stovetop heat. When hot, add the oil. When it’s heated (about 15 seconds; it’ll shimmer), add the chopped onions, carrots, and celery. Season to taste with salt. Sauté until the onion becomes translucent (5 to 8 minutes).
- While the onion is cooking, open the package of Italian sausage links. Cut the sausages into thin slices (you may wish to cut them lengthwise first). Place the sausage pieces in a cold frying pan, then set it over medium stovetop heat. Cook the sausage slices, stirring occasionally, until they’re thoroughly cooked. When done, remove the sausage slices with a slotted spoon and let them drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
- When the onion is translucent, add the chopped garlic to the soup pot and sauté for 1 minute. Add the red pepper flakes (if using) and the oregano, then sauté for another 15 seconds. Drain the lentils and add them to the soup pot. Add the chicken stock and the diced tomatoes. Stir to combine, then bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add the cooked Italian sausage pieces. Stir to combine, then simmer for another 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, rinse the spinach. Cut it into smaller pieces if you wish (we don’t bother). After the soup has cooked about 30 minutes total, add the spinach to the soup pot. Stir to combine, then cook for about 3 minutes.
- Taste the soup, adjust the seasoning if necessary, and serve.
- We use ordinary brown lentils in this soup, but you could substitute another variety if you prefer.
- We generally use 8 cups of chicken stock in this soup. If you want a thicker soup, use less. If you want a more liquid soup, just increase the amount of stock.
- You could substitute bulk sausage for links if you want. We like the look of links, so that’s what we use.
- BTW, you can add the sausage to the soup pot after you finish browning it instead of midway through the simmering stage. We add it later so that there’s less chance of the sausage pieces disintegrating and losing their shape. (This rarely happens; we’re just cautious.)
- We use fresh spinach in this soup because it’s always available at our local supermarket (plus it’s usually good quality and the flavor works well in this dish). You could probably substitute frozen spinach. Or even use another green: Swiss chard, arugula, endive, collard greens, mustard greens – they’d all probably work. But remember, some of these greens take longer to cook.
- If you have fresh rosemary on hand, it would be a wonderful herb to use in this soup. Otherwise, we like to use oregano (either dried or fresh). But marjoram would also be good. Or an Italian herb mix. Or thyme.
- We sometimes add cooked pasta to this soup before serving (we use a small pasta like ditalini). Why use cooked pasta rather than adding uncooked pasta and letting it cook in the soup? Because pasta absorbs a lot of liquid, so you’ll need to continually add liquid to the soup as it cooks.
- We sometimes garnish this soup with grated parmigiano-reggiano or pecorino romano cheese. You could also garnish it with chopped spinach. Or parsley.
- Garlic bread (or another crusty bread) would make a great accompaniment to this soup.
- We think this soup (especially when served with bread) is enough for a meal. But you could add a salad if you wish.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours (and remember, Italian sausage will add salt to the dish, too).
- Programming Note: We’ll be on vacation for a few weeks (see below), so we won’t be posting again until sometime after mid-February. Until then, our Index has loads of options for sating your hunger and thirst.
Around the World
“Tasty, warming soup,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “Though we won’t need the warming part for a while.”
“Nope,” I said. “We’re off to warmer climes.”
“Yup,” said Mrs K R. “We’re flying to Auckland, New Zealand. Then cruising along the New Zealand coast.”
“Then sailing across the Tasman Sea to Australia,” I said.
“Checking out the food and drink scene wherever we go. And eventually cruising north to Bali,” said Mrs K R. “Where we’ll catch a plane home.”
“Or planes, that is,” I said. “We fly westward from Bali to Dubai. Then to Chicago, and finally a short flight home from there.”
“Between our flights and our cruise we’re traveling around the world,” said Mrs K R.
“As T. S. Eliot wrote,” I said, “’We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.’”
“And that place will be cold,” said Mrs K R. “It will be time for soup again.”
You may also enjoy reading about:
Tuscan Bean and Pasta Soup
Red Beans and Rice Soup
Bean and Cabbage Soup
Cajun-Spiced White Bean and Andouille Soup
Cuban-Style Black Bean Soup
Kale, Quinoa, and White Bean Soup
Fennel Soup with Shrimp and Beans
Tomato and White Bean Soup with Escarole
Or check out the index for more
That's a fantastic meal! A bowl full of flavours, comfort and deliciousness! Wish I could join you for the dinner :-))
Hi Angie, this is really good. Excellent, actually. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Your upcoming trip sounds wonderful! Have a great time.
best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
Hi Mae, we're really looking forward to it! :-) Thanks for the comment.
sausages and spinach in lentil soup, yummy. What a great trip, have fun.
Hi Gerlinde, this is really yummy. :-) We'll have some of this in the freezer for when we return! Thanks for the comment.
It looks hearty and comforting for these cold winter days.
What a meal and what a trip! Friends just returned from New Zealand, they were amazed with the scenery, the wildlife, and the culture. Have a good safe trip!
Hi Pam, we need all the comfort we can get at this time of the year! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, we're really looking forward to this trip! We'll be seeing some beautiful and interesting stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This sounds delicious, John! Will have to give it a try. Have a great trip!
Hi Terry, it's good stuff. Our trip will be good stuff, too. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Such comfort food! LOVE IT
Hi Kankana, comforting and good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
There is nothing better than homemade soup during Winter days, so yum!
Hi Natalia, we love soup. LOVE it! :-) Thanks for the comment.
What a delicious soup. It has everything in it for a nourishing bowl. We'll need this for Friday!
Hi R, double yum. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Vicki, Friday isn't looking good, is it? But we have some of this in the freezer. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is just fabulous. I just cooked some Italian sausage for a pasta dish. They the best. And with lentils? Brilliant!!!
I love that the prep time is only 15 minutes! I can totally do this on a weeknight!
Hi Mimi, Italian sausage is SO good, isn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ashley, you can! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Oh YUM! More comfort food to help keep us warm! Love the use of the lentils with the Italian sausage. Bold combination and a great soup!
A lifelong beloved recipe indeed! Your recipe is full of flavour and since I cook dhal almost weekly and oft add them when I make hummus, lentils can always be found un my pantry . . and good strong stock in the freezer! like the addition of spinach . . Hope you have a fabulous trip - glad you are touching Australia . . . we hope to have contained most of the fires by the time you arrive and we are proudly 'open for business' even now !!
Hi MJ, lentils and Italian sausage are a dynamite combo -- really flavorful. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Eha, we use dried legumes and pulses a lot -- such versatile ingredients. Love 'em. And really looking forward to visiting New Zealand and Australia. The fires have been awful this year -- really feel for all of you. Thanks for the comment.
We are in Chile at the moment on holiday and it's chilly.A bowl o f your soup would be perfect. I will store this recipe away for when I can cook again. Thanks so much for sharing. Pauline.
I want this to be MY dinner in a bowl. Looks so hearty and delicious. I'm all for adding a small pasta to it, too! :-)~Valentina
Hi Pauline, hope you're having a terrific holiday! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Valentina, pasta is always good in a soup like this. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This looks so comforting and delicious. I have been on a soup fix lately
Hi Dahn, we're on a soup fix most weeks during cool/cold weather. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This looks very warming and hearty KR. Perhaps not what we need right now here in oz. how wonderful that you’re coming out. I bet you’re going to Sydney:). A bit far from me here in brissie.
Definitely worthy Super Bowl food! This sounds delicious!
Hi Sherry, definitely not what you want to eat at the moment! WAY too hot. :-) In Australia, we'll be visiting Sydney, Brisbane, Airlie Beach, Cairns, Cooktown, and Darwin. It's a cruise, so we'll just sample these, if you know what I mean. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kelsie, definitely a winner. :-) Thanks for the comment.
John, I love a good hearty lintel soup, but I've not made a Italian version. It sounds yummy and comforting indeed.
What a fantastic journey you guys are going on. New Zealand is likely my favorite travel destination in the world. Enjoy and be safe.
Hi Ron, Italian sausage is really good with lentils. :-) And we really, really want to see New Zealand! Thanks for the comment.
John,I can see by your list of soups,I should probably refer to you as 'my soup man"! I hope you won't be too inconvenienced by the fires in Australia when you visit and sorry I won't be in Adelaide to greet you!
Hi Fran, we do like soup, don't we? :-) The fires are a mess, aren't they? So sorry for those living close, and who experience the effects every day. :-( Thanks for the comment.
Sounds great and would be very simple to ketofy!
Hi Anne, it would be! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hearty, delicious soups is my favorite thing about winter! I love the addition of fresh spinach to brighten and fortify the soup -- well done, John. :)
Hi Judy, we really like adding greens to soup -- taste, good, and look good. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Its freezing cold with heaps of snow in Vancouver I am craving a bowl of this hearty lentil soup. Sausages and greens are a great addition to it.
Hi Balvinder, we're just about to get a little snow and a lot of ice -- time for soup! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Yum! What a hearty and tasty bowl of soup this is. What a great idea to use lentils in here.
That is definitely comfort in a bowl! Since we are not flying to and cruising in warmer climes, we may just need this recipe so the later! I hope that you and Mrs. KR have a wonderful trip — it sounds incredible. I definitely look forward to hearing about it soon!
I LOVE lentils—and sausage for that matter—so this hearty soup is right up my alley. Great for the weather we're having around here.
Hi Amy, lentils are good, aren't they? Thanks for the comment.
Hi David, you'll hear about the trip after the middle of February. :-) We have some of this soup in the freezer to enjoy when we return! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Frank, we use lentils often -- really like their flavor. And our weather has been miserable lately, so we need this soup! Thanks for the comment.
I make a version of this regularly in winter. Lentils are so wonderful because they cook up quickly, as opposed to other dried beans. In no time, you can have a hearty soup like this that will fill you through and through.
Hi Carolyn, we probably use lentils more than other dried pules/legumes simply because they are so quick cooking. Plus they taste really good -- nice, hearty flavor. Thanks for the comment.
The weather is incredibly stormy and cold around here. This would be the absolutely perfect dinner. It looks amazing.
Hi Amalia, really, really cold here -- soup time! :-) Thanks for the comment.
we should meet up for coffee...
I was sold on this soup right away, because I basically love anything with sausage in it. But the spinach - and you suggestion of other greens - turned my head all the more quickly. Plus, I love-love-love the idea of adding pasta. This is a soup that could get me through plenty of cold weather.
I love lentil soup year round but especially in the colder months! This looks perfect for game day too. Can't wait to hear about your trip!
This soup totally takes game day food to the next level! Enjoy your vacation ... I hope it's somewhere warm.
Hi Sherry, thanks for the offer! Don't think we'll have time --we're booked on tours for Brisbane, but that would have been lovely. Thanks.
Hi Jeff, isn't this nice? Love greens like spinach in soup! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lisa, lentil soup is wonderful. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Laura, it's nice and warm. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love soups with lentils in them and I love the combination of the lentils and the Italian sausage. This sounds so tasty!! Great comfort food.
Definitely a delicious and hardy soup. I really like the added spinach at the end too.
The perfect comfort soup for this rainy cold wheather.
Fabulous soup. But a more fabulous itinerary! Enjoy! We will miss you!
This is sensational. Lentil soup is magnificent and healthy and with the sausage this is absolutely sublime. Perfect, thank you :D
John, such a hearty and delicious soup! The Italian sausage and lentils make a wonderful combination. The perfect dinner with some crusty bread!
Warm soup to send you on your way. Have fun. GREG
Hi Dawn, it's a wonderful soup! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Evelyne, we really like adding spinach to soup -- looks nice, tastes terrific. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Denise, hot and sunny where we are at the moment, but when we get back it'll be cold and maybe snowy. Soup weather! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Abbe, it's a fun trip. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Merryn, isn't this great? SO good :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kelly, bread is so nice with soup, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Greg, we're having a great time. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This looks and sounds so hearty and filling! Would love a bowl of this today.
Yes, garlic bread would be absolutely perfect with this soup! Delicious, John! :)
I love Italian sausage and this soup will be so good for this season.
Perfect for these cold winter days! Legume and sausage make a great combination!
Hi Caroline, it's really wonderful! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Marcelle, garlic bread is perfect with a lot of things. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kankana, Italian sauce is SO nice, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Katerina, we LOVE soups made with dried legumes and pulses. And sausage. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Love how this soup has a good mix of every element. So beautiful and hearty!
Hi Taruna, we really like hearty soups like this during cold weather! Thanks for the comment.
Safe travels. Can't wait to hear about them upon your return. I love that Eliot quote!! :)
Somehow I have never had a lentil soup with sausage..the soup looks fantastic and I sure would cook a big batch and freeze some for later. Thanks for the recipe John!
I hope you are having a great week!
Hi Debra, of COURSE you'd like that quote. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Juliana, it's a good combo of flavors. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I really liked your idea for substituting either canned white beans or chickpeas. That is such an easy way to change up the flavors of the soup!
Hi Heidi, we make a lot of soup, so we're always changing things up. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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