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.”
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