I hated lentil soup as a kid! Not sure what I disliked more, my mom’s broccoli soup or her lentil soup. At least there were no bugs in the lentil soup. I’m happy to say that my taste has changed as an adult and this has become one of my favorite soups. It certainly is the most healthy. My mother always told me it had plenty of iron and protein. Lentil soup is also a good source of dietary fiber and potassium. But, that’s not why I eat it. It taste great! But it also helps to know it’s good for you.
I just found out recently that some Italians eat Lentil soup on New Years Eve or for New Year’s dinner because of the round shape of the lentils. It represents money and is supposed to bring prosperity, wealth and good fortune during the upcoming year. ANOTHER reason for loving lentil soup. As if Italians needed more reasons for eating. I might have missed this tradition. Either that or it didn’t get up into the far hills of Vizzini where my grandparents were from.
I asked my mother about this and she said, “We never even looked at lentils during the holidays”! ” That’s not a food to eat around the holiday’s”. I knew I could depend on my mother for setting the record straight on Italian traditions. She said “where do they do that, in Calabria?” Nothing against the Calabrese, but I’m sure this tradition takes place in parts of Italy other than Sicily. And after all, that is all I’m authorized to talk about….
I hope you enjoy this lentil soup. If it brings you prosperity, let me know. I’ll give my mother a call and tell her what we missed out on all these years.
- 1 pound of dry lentils
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup peeled and chopped tomatoes
- 2 quarts of water (8 cups)
- 10 ounces of fresh or frozen spinach, chopped
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 chicken bouillon cube
- fresh ground black pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
- grated Parmesan cheese
Sort through for foreign materials or stones and rinse the lentils. Place the lentils in a 5 quart pot and cover with 2 quarts of water. Turn the heat to medium high. When the water starts to boil add the carrots, celery, bay leaf, bouillon cube, onion and garlic. Return the pot to a boil. Add the chopped tomatoes, thyme, salt, pepper and bring to a low simmer. Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes or until lentils are tender.
The last 10 minutes add the chopped spinach. Taste for salt.
If you want a thicker soup you can let it cook longer for the lentils to break down further or take out 2 cups of the soup and puree in a blender and add back to the soup. I like to have chunks and whole lentils in my lentil soup.
When you are ready to serve, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over the bowls of soup and serve with grated cheese if desired.