I got the idea from Ina Garten on her Barefoot Contessa show…it looked delicious. I’ve had a bag of lentils in my cabinet for a loooonnnng time and since it was cool and rainy today, I decided to go for it! I’m not a fan of kielbasa sausage and I was trying to keep this on the healthful side, so I used turkey breakfast sausage in its place and just spiced it up a bit. I also prefer a thicker lentil soup, so I used my immersion blender to make it heartier. I think it turned out fantastic – my picky husband even ate it! You can certainly leave the sausage out and use veggie stock to make a wonderful vegan/vegetarian soup as well.
- 1 pound lentils
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- about 4 cups diced onions (about 2 large onions…I used sweet ones)
- 2 chopped leeks (white & light green parts only) *See Note below.
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2-3 cloves)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon of dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2-3 cups diced celery (depending on how much you like celery)
- 3 cups diced carrots
- about 10 cups of chicken stock (or veggie stock…or just use water & bullion)
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 roll of turkey breakfast sausage
- 1 tsp fennel seed (ground up with a mortar & pestal)
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
First off, get some water boiling. Put the lentils in a large bowl and cover with the boiling water. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes…just to get the lentils softened. Drain and set aside.
* Note: slice the dark green tops off the leeks and then slice them up the middle with the root end still attached. Rinse them really well. They are often dirty and sandy inbetween the leaves/layers. Then chop ‘em up
Get a LARGE pot and heat up your olive oil on medium heat. Add the onions, leeks, garlic, cumin, thyme, salt & pepper. Cook for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally until it’s all translucent and cooked down well.
When the onion mixture is cooked down, add in the celery and carrots and stir well. Let that cook for about 10 minutes.
While that is cooking, get your stock warmed up in a separate pot.
When the veggies are cooked up (the carrots and celery will be firm, still) add in the tomato paste. Stir it in well so all the veg are covered. Add in the drained lentils and stir thoroughly. Now cover the whole mixture with the hot stock…stir well, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Set the timer for 1 hour.
When the timer has about 15 minutes left…get a skillet nice and hot. Add a little olive oil and get the sausage browning. Break it all up so it’s in small bite sized pieces. Add the fennel and the crushed red pepper. Let this cook while working it around for 10-15 minutes until it’s nice and browned.
By this time, the soup should be about done. Use an immersion blender and give it a few pulses in the soup pot until it’s a thickness and consistency you like. I like mine thick, yet chunky…so I didn’t process it too much. You can also do this by taking a cup or two of the soup and blend it in the food processor or blender and add it back into the pot.
Add in the sausage and stir well. Taste it for seasoning. Add salt or pepper if needed. This will depend on how salty your stock is, so don’t over season in the beginning.
Turn off the heat and let it sit for at least 15 minutes covered so the sausagey flavor can get into the soup.
Voila! Done. If you want, you can drizzle a little olive oil and parm cheese on top, but it definitely doesn’t need it. It’s hearty and delicious. It makes a LARGE pot so you can feed a LOT of people with about the $10 it costs for the ingredients. It’ll freeze well so you can have yummy single servings in the freezer for cold winter days when you feel lazy.