2-3 stalks of celery
2-3 cloves of garlic
4-5 links of sausage (optional)
1 glug of red wine (that’s a technical term for when you add a glug of wine)
1 cup lentils
4 cups water
salt, pepper, thyme, olive oil
Finely chop the celery, carrots, onion and garlic, the pieces should be no bigger than the lentils.
Gently sauté in your soup pot until the soffrito is soft and wilty. (That’s what the chopped carrot/onion/celery combination is called in Italian and it’s the base for a zillion soups and sauces.) Roughly chop the sausages into bite size pieces and add to the soup pot. Let the sausage mingle with the soffrito and then add a glug of red wine. Add a bit of salt, a few grinds of pepper and a bit of fresh thyme.
Add the four cups of water and let the pot come to a gentle boil. Now add the lentils, when the pot comes back to a boil, lower the heat to its lowest setting, cover tightly and leave the pot alone for the next two hours.
I like to make soup in a ceramic casserole pot with a lid. I set the oven at 300F and leave the soup in the oven. I find that I can better control a lower heat in the oven, plus you get the benefit of total surround heat instead of just heat from the bottom of the pot. You want lazy bubbles coming up to the surface, not a rolling bowl.
After two hours take about a cup of the soup (not the sausages) and puree it. Return the pureed soup to the pot and mix it in with the remaining soup. What you’ve done is make the soup ‘creamy’ without adding any cream at all. It’s a good trick to remember when you are looking to thicken a soup without actually adding cream.
If you like your lentil soup with a little tartness or acidity, add a small dollop of sweet vinegar or serve with a lemon wedge. Crusty bread, a green salad, a glass of wine, a visit with old friends and you have the makings of a memorable lunch.