This Italian Lentil Soup is so flavorful you can literally eat it for any meal: breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner! What makes this soup so good (and good for you)?
Years ago, when Dan was in graduate school at Taylor University, our friends the Cramers introduced us to red lentils, particularly in the dish Easy Cheesy Lentils from Rose Elliot’s the Vegetarian Mother and Baby Cookbook. One thing I loved right away about the red lentil was how quickly this tender lentil cooked. Since then, I’ve also come to appreciate the nutritional value of lentils, as well as their mild flavor, which makes them a perfect medium for other flavors.
I start with the classic soup base of onion, celery (or celeriac in this case), and carrots sauteed in olive oil. Then, when I add garlic, I include a punch of umami by using an entire bulb of black garlic. Because black garlic is soft, chopping it is a challenge. So, after peeling the bulbs, I instead smush the black garlic bulbs, “tear” them into little pieces, and scatter them into my soup pot. I saute the black garlic along with the regular garlic, then add salt to complete my soup base. Wonder!
I’m writing this post in the winter, so I’m using celeriac, dried Italian seasonings, and frozen tomatoes in this Italian Lentil Soup. However, this soup is versatile with the seasons, so if you’re making this in the summer consider substituting:
- celery for celeriac
- 1/4-1/2 cup fresh herbs like a combination of basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme for Italian seasoning
- fresh tomatoes for frozen/canned tomatoes
After several requests to offer a vegan soup from our farm kitchen, I decided to make this lentil soup using water (along with juice from the tomatoes) as my liquid. You can switch out water for vegetable stock and keep this soup vegan, or use chicken stock for another layer of flavor.
My favorite addition to this soup is the swirl of balsamic vinegar right at the end. Paired with crunchy croutons and a lightly dressed salad, you have yourself a delicious, healthy, filling meal. Enjoy!
Italian Lentil Soup
- cutting board
- chef's knife
- Dutch oven or soup pot
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1.5 cups onion peeled and chopped
- 1.5 cup carrots chopped
- 1 cup celeriac peeled and chopped
- 1 bulb black garlic peeled and smushed
- 4 cloves garlic peeled and minced
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 cup red lentils rinsed
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes more or less, to taste
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound tomatoes chopped
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
- Heat oil in Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Once oil is shimmering, add onion, carrots and celeriac. Lower heat to medium and saute 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and fragrant.
- Add the black garlic, garlic, and salt. Saute 1-2 minutes, until garlic is fragrant.
- Add lentils, bay leaves, Italian seasoning, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Saute 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add tomatoes and 6 cups of water or vegetable stock. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer and cover. Simmer 25-30 minutes, until lentils are tender and cooked through.
- Add balsamic vinegar. Taste. Season with additional salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes if desired. Remove from heat. Remove bay leaves.
- Serve with crunchy croutons. Enjoy!