Umbrian Lentil Soup

July 16, 2015 / Food & Wine

For about 6 persons
1 lb lentils
1 carrot, finely-chopped
1 medium-sized stalk of celery, finely-chopped
1 small white or yellow onion, finely-chopped
1 handful parsley, finely-chopped
extra-virgin olive oil – to taste
salt – as needed
Optional additions: hot red pepper, sprig of fresh rosemary


Soak the lentils overnight in cold water. If you are using the tiny Castelluccio lentils, no need to do so!
Our farm neighbors advise starting with a soffrito (or “gentle fry”), that is, by covering bottom of soup pot with olive oil. When olive oil is hot but not burning, stir in vegetables with wooden spoon (only! never use stainless steel with legumes is a rural “rule). Stir til vegetables are golden – add lentils and about 1 1/2 qt water. Simmer til lentils tender. Drizzle with olive oil when serving, if desired.

Lentil soup with sausages -an Umbrian specialty

My version: to avoid any sort of frying (even if minimal) of olive oil, I put all ingredients in pot together (except olive oil) and simmer until lentils tender and then drizzle olive oil on the soup before serving. (My version is probably better for the health – but the rural version is best for the palate!). For both of above versions, small hot red pepper may be added during cooking – but watch out! A sprig of fresh rosemary adds wonderful flavor to the soup. Miscellaneous lore: * The above soup is delicious if poured over hot bruschetta (bread toasted and rubbed with a garlic clove, then drizzled with olive oil). Farm friend Peppa adds chopped potatoes to her lentil soup when lentils are partially cooked.

* Here in Umbria, lentils are eaten New Year’s Eve (along with many other dishes) as the more lentils you eat on New Year’s Eve the more coins (ie, greater wealth) you will have in the New Year. On New Year’s, the lentil soup is cooked with zampone (pig’s feet), though the farmers often used their homemade sausages if zampone not available. * Olive oil must be extra virgin and ideal if also cold-pressed.

Castelluccio lentil goodness


Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See for more on her Umbria tours. Do see for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

6 Responses to “Umbrian Lentil Soup”

  1. Suzanne and Jack

    Thank you for another wonderfully informative article Anne and for the recipe for Lentil Soup. I will try it this week. A good winter warmer. Wondering why the rule is to only use a wooden spoon to stir the soup?

  2. Jean Brooks

    Anne, this sounds wonderful. I will be making it soon, “frying” the veggies in the olive oil first!

  3. laura rehrmann

    Looks delicious and perfect for dreary Seattle days. Your recipes always bring Italy into our home. Beautiful photos too.

  4. Carol McCabe

    This recipe has me off to buy lentils! Thanks for sharing Anne.

  5. Michele Baudanza, LA, CA, USA

    Lovely! My family has always enjoyed lentil zupa. These days, because I am a meat lover, I add ham, or sausage or polish kielbasa which has tons of flavor. Also, perhaps sacrilegious, a bit of Parmesanio or Romano. And hot bread, what could be better.

  6. David Bridges

    Great to see a piece about the legume based food in Italy. My wife and I have used Italian lentils and other beans when we have lived in Italy. We prepare our US lentil soup by cooking the beans in a slightly oiled large pot. I have seen this called “sweating the lentils” and it does help the taste.


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