Meatless and darn tasty lentil soup

If you are looking for an easy, vegetarian, delicious one pot soup this is the perfect meal. During Lent it is a frequent choice at our house for Friday night dinner and during the rest of the year as well.

My late mother-in-law Vicki gave me this recipe almost 40 years ago. She was Portuguese so I have always assumed that the origin of the recipe must be Portugal. It is a family favorite and for the grandchildren we call it “mental soup”. I get a lot of requests to bring this soup to pot luck dinners or to friends homes.

1 bag green/gray lentils
3 large ribs of celery and some of the inner leaves
2 medium size carrots
1 large white onion
8 ounces of tubettini or other small penne type pasta
1 double shot of good quality olive oil plus one tablespoon
1 tablespoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the lentils well in a colander, shake the colander to dislodge anything that may be mixed in with the lentil and put aside to drain. Chop all the vegetables into half inch pieces. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the bottom of an eight quart stock pot and sweat the vegetables for five to seven minutes over low heat, stir frequently. Add the lentils and then add six quarts of water. Stir lightly. Bring to a rolling boil, cover and lower the heat to medium low for ninety minutes.

Give the contents a stir every fifteen minutes or so to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. Add the olive oil and the garlic powder and continue to cook for fifteen more minutes. Add the pasta and taste the soup, add extra garlic and/or olive if your tastes dictate, I often do. Cook until the pasta softens, stirring frequently to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom. Remove from the heat and let stand for fifteen or twenty minutes, taste and add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a nice rustic bread and a tossed salad.

The soup will become very thick. If you have leftovers you will need to add water to reheat and I usually add additional garlic and olive oil at this point as well. The flavors of this dish gets better after a day or two. This soup will keep well in the fridge for several days and also freezes well. Thaw, add water and reheat slowly.

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