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.
as usual, a great recipe, peter. my family was one that ate lentils for good luck on NYD. while my mother used most of the ingredients that your version calls for, her method was different. she always boiled a ham bone & the lentils were cooked in the resulting broth. the chopped carrots, celery, bell pepper, garlic & onion were added after the lentils had cooked part way. when all was done, she added the chopped left-over ham . the dish was not served as a main course but rather as a soup to start the meal. we had a roast, or a stuffed chicken or turkey as the main dish. us kids used to try to count every lentil [impossible!] to see how much money we’d get. silly! my parents used to tell us to eat all of our lentils & then we’d be rich. i think it was their little joke as a play on words b/c our family name is ricci. they always laughed uproariously when they said it…so, now that i’m older & speak the language better, that’s my interpretation. i will try your version using the chopped spinach…sounds like a great healthful addition. ancora buon anno…tu’amica, marianna
Marianna, the ham bone is a nice addition. This soup takes on an even better character the next day. Enjoy! And Happy New Year!
Pete I also just use some bacon….leaves a nice flavor
MMM! Sounds like a nice addition. Add bacon to anything and you have a winner!
This is always part of our Christmas Eve Vigil celebration. Just a small amount of the soup to start the meal. Everyone must take just a taste. My dad used to call it money soup! It was a tradition from my dad’s side of the Italian family. His family was from Pratola Peligna.
Thank you! It’s been years since I made lentil soup and my mother is no longer around for me to ask (she of course didn’t have an actual recipe). This is pretty much how my mother made lentil soup though she often added ditalini to make it stretch even further. She was a second generation American (which makes me third) and her family is from the Naples area. We never heard of eating lentils on any holiday either. They were just something you ate at any time, though the soup was usually in winter.