As soon as the weather turns cooler here in the north, I start to crave hearty soups. I love them when they are full of vegetables because it means I don’t have to serve anything on the side except some crusty bread. I have a favorite soup that I make all winter and fall that also happens to be a favorite of my family. Whenever I tell my 11 year old that it’s what we are having for dinner, she gets really excited.
I was late to the lentil game, and now I can’t imagine what I did before them. Lentils are so full of protein and fiber and really make a soup an entire meal in a bowl. They felt intimidating to me for some reason. Now that I know I just have to rinse them and pick out any super weird looking ones, I’m good to go.
This recipe is inspired by a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis. Over the years I’ve made quite a few changes to it and I really do love my updated version. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
2 tablespoons olive oil (or just do what I do which is to pour some in a pot till it looks like enough)
1 medium onion, chopped
4 carrots, washed & chopped (I seriously don’t even peel them, just scrub)
4 celery stalks, chopped
1 large potato or 2 small potatoes, cubed (again, don’t peel them)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 pound lentils (approximately 1 1/4 cups)
11 cups vegetable broth (I love Better Than Bouillon)
4 to 6 fresh thyme sprigs
Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. I love to use my prized Le Creuset Dutch oven that I received one year for Christmas. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and stir. Then, add the garlic, salt, and pepper and saute until all the vegetables are tender (about 5-8 minutes), stirring occasionally. Do not let vegetables burn. Add the tomatoes with their juices and the potatoes and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Add the lentils and mix to coat. Now, add the broth and stir. Nestle the thyme sprigs in the mix and then bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and simmer over low heat until the lentils are almost tender, about 30 minutes.
Taste the soup and add any additionally salt and pepper (or more bouillon if using) it needs.
Remove the thyme sprigs. Ladle the soup into bowls. Add a large handful of fresh spinach into the bowl and mix to wilt. Serve with crusty warm bread. We are partial to sourdough rolls or garlic bread.