The following recipe is from the February 18th edition of our weekly recipe newsletter. To receive this newsletter in your inbox, sign up here!
This lentil and sausage soup, from Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond's Almost Meatless, is profoundly adaptable. You could replace the Italian sausage with bacon or chorizo, you could omit the fennel if that's not your thing, or you could blend the whole soup instead of a third for a uniformly creamy texture.
The recipe uses only a little bit of sausage to bring a rich, savory dimension to the soup; Parmesan rinds and balsamic vinegar do the rest. For even more intense flavor, the authors note, cook the carrots, celery, and onion for up to 90 minutes before adding the liquid.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 ounces hot Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 small onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
- 2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
- 1 small fennel bulb, cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 1 cup)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cup brown lentils
- 6 cups water
- 3 (2-inch) Parmesan cheese rinds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (4 ounces), plus extra for serving
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Good-quality artisanal bread for serving
- Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Put the 1 tablespoon olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the sausage, breaking up with a spoon, and cook for about 10 minutes until the fat is rendered and the sausage is well-browned. Remove the sausage bits and set aside.
Add the onion, bell pepper, celery, carrots, fennel, and 1 teaspoon salt. Adjust the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened.
Add the tomato paste, stirring well to coat the vegetables, and cook for about 2 minutes to melt the paste. Add the garlic, tomatoes, lentils, water, cheese rinds, and bay leaf. Turn the heat to high, bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf and cheese rinds.
Place the 1 cup cheese in a blender. Add about one-third of the soup to the blender and puree the soup and cheese, making sure that your blender is less than one-third full. Return the puree to the pot. Add the reserved sausage bits, stir to combine, and add the balsamic vinegar. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if desired. Serve with bread, additional grated Parmesan, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.