Let me start this post with saying that this is not the lentil soup that I grew up eating. The lentil soup that both my mother and my Nonna made was exceedingly simple: extra virgin olive oil, sautéed onions, boiled lentils, broken spaghetti, salt, and pepper. Serve with a salad and Dinner Done. This lentil soup, which I created so Keith wouldn’t feel deprived of hearty sustenance on Meatless Mondays, is also exceedingly simple, but brings deeper flavors and more complex textures to the table (haha). This is Make Ahead Lentil Soup because I have segmented the recipe into pre-freeze and post-thaw instructions so you can have an extremely healthy, filling, and vegetarian meal in no time any night of the week.
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
5 large stalks of celery, medium/large dice
5 large carrots, medium/large dice
2 large onions, chopped
1 bunch thyme
4 bay leaves
½ tsp crushed red pepper
28oz (one large can) of diced tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock
5 cups water
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese rind (optional, if you have it)
1 cup lentils (try to use darker colored lentils, the lighter ones will fall apart too easily)
Juice of 4 large lemons
2 tbs hot sauce
salt & pepper
4oz spaghetti, broken
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (or an equally hard salty cheese)
Heat extra virgin olive oil in large saucepot. Add carrots, celery, onions and cook vegetables on high heat for 3-5 minutes. Stir occasionally, but allow the vegetables to caramelize slight before stirring. Once the vegetables have soften slightly, add the garlic, thyme, bay leaves, crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper, and stir. Let cook for another 10 minutes until vegetables have softened and you can smell the aromatics.
Add the can of tomatoes, vegetable stock, and 3 cups of water. If you have the Parmesan rind, add it now as well. Stir and bring soup to a boil with a lid on. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and let cook with the lid on for about 30 minutes.
Be sure to sort your lentils because as a dried legume, they are notorious for harboring a few stones, sticks, and other inedibles. Once sorted, in a separate pot, combine lentils and the remaining 2 cups of water. Using high heat, cook lentils until aldente.
Add cooked lentils (and whatever liquid there is left in the pot) to simmering soup and stir to incorporate. Let soup continue to simmer for 10 more minutes. Add lemon juice, hot sauce, and season again to taste with salt and pepper.
Once cooled, remove the thyme branches, the bay leaves, and the cheese rind. Divide into freezer safe containers and freeze.
When you’re ready to enjoy your lentil soup on a busy week night, take it out of the freezer that morning and let it thaw throughout the day. When you get home, warm the soup in a large sauce pot on low heat (you could also do this step in the mircowave and thaw/heat it at the same time, but since we don’t have a microwave we use the stovetop). While the soup is warming, in a separate pot cook off 4oz of broken spaghetti according to the package instructions. To finish this soup I use quinoa spaghetti, but any type of whole wheat or organic spaghetti will do. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the warming soup. Let the soup simmer a few minutes longer, and taste to see if you need to reseason or add a bit more lemon juice.
Sever garnished with grated Parmigiano and homemade crostini with garlic butter. Mmmmmmm……