"Lentils are friendly-the Miss Congeniality of the bean world."
Here's one for The Mister. It's his favorite, and the belated cool weather here in New England was calling for something warm and hearty. This is a basic and fun soup to throw together that makes a thoroughly satisfying meal, requiring only some good bread to mop up juices. It is easily adaptable to vegetarian palates as well. Simply substitute vegetable broth for the beef and chicken broth, add two teaspoons of onion powder and 1/2 teaspoon of hot pepper flakes for a flavor boost, and substitute cubed roasted root vegetables or butternut squash for the sausage. The addition of some chopped fresh spinach half an hour before serving is great too.
Since we get at least two meals out of this, on the second night I add some cooked mini egg bows (or other tiny soup pasta) to the reheated soup for variety. It really is delicious. Everyone loves it, even those who are not enthusiastic about soup.
Sausage and Lentil Soup
1 pound hot Italian sausage (or cubed root vegetables or butternut squash)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
16 ounces dry lentils, any variety
3 14.5 ounce cans chicken broth
1 14.5 ounce can beef broth
4 cups water
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning - or a blend of parsley, oregano, basil and thyme to equal 1 teaspoon dry or 1 tablespoon fresh
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup dry small egg bows (cook before adding) - optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Poke each sausage a few times with a fork. Place in baking pan and bake for 30 minutes (if you are making the vegetarian version, toss cubed root vegetables or butternut squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake 25 minutes). Set aside.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shallot, onion, celery and carrot. Cook until onion softens. Add garlic and cook about 2 more minutes, being careful not to let garlic brown. Stir in lentils, broths, tomatoes, water, sliced sausages and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for at least an hour, until lentils are tender. At this point, the soup is ready, but can tolerate simmering a couple more hours if that would be convenient, or hanging out in a crock pot on low for a few hours. A half hour before serving, add the chopped spinach if you are using it (or roasted root vegetables for vegetarian version), and ten minutes before serving, add the cooked pasta.
Serve with some good crusty bread and Parmesan cheese.