My Italian-born mom was visiting me recently. Like many moms, she's known for throwing ingredients together and coming up with something yummy to eat! And of course, no written recipe.
This is her lentil soup that she made from what she found in my cupboards while I was out for a short time. I sat down with her to try to capture her recipe on paper and this is what we came up with!
There are a few optional ingredients like bacon (or pancetta) and cream of mushroom or celery soup (or leftover mashed potatoes). Our version was made without both ingredients although she typically includes them. It really is delicious!
1 cup of lentils, rinsed
1 cup broken large pasta (spaghetti or fettuccine) or small pasta
1 carrot, diced
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
3 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 celery stalk, diced
Optional: 1 can of cream of mushroom or celery soup (use about 1 cup leftover mashed potatoes if handy)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
Optional: 1 bacon strip, cooked and cut into small pieces (or about 1/4 cup cooked pancetta)
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
Optional: red pepper flakes to taste
Add about 5 cups of water (or enough to cover the lentils plus about 2 extra inches) and the lentils to a medium-sized, deep saute pan over medium heat.
Add the bacon (or pancetta) if you're using it. Cook, covered, until the lentils are almost soft, or until the water is absorbed. You may need to add more water to the lentils.
Meanwhile, in a large, deep saute pan over low-to-medium heat, add the olive oil. When hot, add the onion and cook until golden. Add 4 cups of water, carrots, tomato sauce, celery, parsley, cream of mushroom or celery soup or mashed potatoes if using, and salt & pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. When boiling, add the pasta, lower the heat and cook until the pasta is tender.
Add the lentil mixture to the pasta and cook, uncovered, for another 15-20 minutes.
If you think your soup should be a bit creamier, combine about 2 tablespoons of flour with about 4 tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl. Whisk until a smooth paste forms. While the lentil and pasta mixture is cooking, gradually add the flour/water mixture, a bit at a time, while stirring.
Season with hot pepper flakes if you'd like. When serving, add to individual bowls and sprinkle with fresh grated Romano cheese.