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.
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.