Monday's were soup days when I was growing up a b'zillion years ago and my Mom could make a mean pot of it even when the cupboard was darn near bare. I may have inherited her talent in that respect although personally I think it's just a great way to use up some of the odds and sods hiding in the refrigerator and/or pantry.
An off the cuff J'Bug original, this pot starts with a couple of ounces of pancetta, although you could use bacon if you wish. Once rendered of its fat, I add diced vegetables including onions, carrots, celery and fennel along with lots of garlic and some spicy hot Italian sausage (bulk without the casings).
Sautéed until the veggies are soft and the sausage is all crumbled and no longer pink, I hit the pot with a bunch of spices along with tomato paste, diced canned tomatoes and lots of chicken stock. A cup and a half of lentils and some red wine vinegar round it all out and an hour later, a miraculous thing has occurred that looks and smells like dinner.
About 10 minutes out hit the scene with some green like chopped fresh spinach and Italian parsley, and turn the heat off, cover the pot and let the greens steep a touch so they keep their color. Ladle into bowls, pass the grated cheese and bring out the crusty bread or crunchy crackers. Dinner's served! Simple right?
Spicy Lentil Soup with Sausage (an original from JBug’s Kitchen)
3 to 4 ounces pancetta, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 cup chopped peeled carrots
3 stalks celery, diced
1 small fennel bulb, finely chopped
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage
1-1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon oregano
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
2 quarts chicken stock
1 – 28 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1-1/2 cups lentils, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped (or kale if you wish)
1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
Grated parmesan cheese as garnish (I used Italian 4 cheese blend)
In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat oil until shimmering. Add pancetta, reduce heat and cook until pancetta has released some of its fat – about 4 to 5 minutes. Add onions, carrots, celery, fennel, and garlic to the pot. Cook stirring for 1 minute, then add crumbled Italian sausage. Cook until vegetables are softened and sausage is no longer pink – about 10 minutes. Stir in basil, oregano, bay leaves, Italian seasoning, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly for 30 seconds, then add chicken stock, tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir well to combine. Add lentils and red wine vinegar. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer, cover pot and cook for 1 hour. Ten minutes before serving, stir in spinach and parsley. Cover pot and remove from heat and let the pot sit as the residual heat cooks the spinach and parsley. Ladle into bowls and garnish with grated cheese. Makes 6 to 8 servings. Feel free to add more stock if you like a thinner soup.
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