I love a good hearty soup on a cold winter day like today. I thought I would make soup for dinner tonight and didn’t want to go out for groceries in this snowstorm so started looking through my freezer for ingredients I could use. I found frozen spinach and Italian sausage and thought that would go well with some lentils and diced tomatoes. I also had some fresh basil that needed to be used up, so an Italian themed lentil soup was born. You can make it vegetarian by not adding the sausage or make it vegan by not adding the sausage or parmesan cheese. I hope you enjoy it, we sure did, yum!
2 tablespoons oil
1 pound of sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed (I found Italian sausage with the casings already removed at the grocery store)
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks, sliced or diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced into half-moons or diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional and probably don’t need it if using spicy sausage)
1 cup brown lentils, sorted and rinsed(use green, yellow or red lentils if that’s what you have on hand)
2 bay leaves
1 28-ounce can crushed or diced tomatoes-I prefer the diced tomatoes for more of a chunky texture.
6 cups water
Add a little agave syrup or sugar to cut the tang of the tomatoes if necessary
1 cup of frozen chopped spinach, thawed with excess juices squeezed out- 4 cups of fresh spinach, swiss chard or kale would also work
Grated Parmesan cheese and julienned fresh basil to finish
1. Heat oil in a large pot on medium heat. When hot, add the sausage, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until it starts to brown, about five minutes. I like to leave the sausage kind of chunky when I break it up. I also like to drain off some of the excess fat from the cooking sausage before I add the vegetables. Add the onion, celery, carrots and two sliced garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, and if you like your soup spicy, a pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook with the sausage until the vegetables soften a bit, another 5 minutes. Add the lentils, bay leaves, tomatoes, water, more salt and black pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. (It might be necessary to add more water if the soup gets too thick, that’s up to you.)
2. When the lentils are cooked, add the spinach. Discard the bay leaves. Add agave syrup and salt and pepper to taste.
3. To finish, top with freshly grated parmesan and julienned fresh basil. Leftovers will keep for several days in the refrigerator.