prep time: 30 min | cook time: 1 hour
- Lentils: There are many types of lentils – the main kinds are red, yellow, brown, and green. We want green or brown lentils as they hold their firm shape when boiled, which is the texture we are going for in this soup rather than the unstructured chunky texture red or yellow lentils deliver.
- 4 slices of rye bread (other bread works fine too if you have something else on hand)
- Olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled (and slightly smushed with the back of your knife)
- Black pepper
- 8 cups (64 ounces) chicken or vegetable stock (homemade is best!)
- 2 cups green lentils
- 1 medium onion
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 4 ounces of any short pasta (I used conchigliette here for the nice chunky shell shapes)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme)
- 2 bay leaves, optional
- 1-2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- Parmesan cheese, optional
PREPARE THE BREAD CRUMBS
- Preheat the oven to 375° F.
- Rub each side of the bread with the smushed (smooshed? smashed?) garlic clove. Then tear the pieces of bread into loose chunks and set in a large mixing bowl.
- Drizzle olive oil into the bowl until the bread seems moderately coated and toss the bowl so there is even coating across the crumbs.
- Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring the bread crumbs halfway through, until they are toasty and browned. Remove from oven and let cool.
PREPARE THE SOUP INGREDIENTS
- Dice onion.
- Peel and mince the garlic.
- Measure out and sort through the lentils, making sure to pick out and discard any rocks or debris that are sometimes in lentil bags.
- Measure out pasta.
- If your Italian sausage came in a sausage link, remove the casing on it before adding to the pan. If you bought ground sausage you don’t need to worry about this step.
- Shred parmesan and set aside in a bowl.
- Heat a 4-quart Dutch oven or large stock pot over medium heat. Add enough olive oil to evenly coat the bottom of the pot.
- Add sausage and onion to the pot. Continually stir and break up sausage into smaller pieces as you are cooking. Cook until sausage is browned and onions are softened, 10-12 minutes.
- Add garlic and thyme and stir well. Cook 1-2 minutes, until garlic is fragrant. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
- Add lentils, bay leaves, and broth. Give the whole pot a stir. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce to low once your soup is simmering (we don’t want a rolling boil, just a light simmer).
- Cover and simmer for 30 minutes on low. Check and stir occasionally.
- Add ½ teaspoon salt and the red wine vinegar (start with 1 Tablespoon of vinegar, and add more to to taste – I usually like around 2 Tablespoons in mine).
- Add pasta and stir. Cook for the amount of time specified on the pasta package (usually somewhere around 10 minutes), or until pasta has cooked completely.
- Add any additional water necessary to thin soup to the consistency you like. I typically like this soup chunkier and need just a splash of water here.
- Remove bay leaves.
- Refine salt and vinegar as necessary – salt to taste, if you find your soup still needs a boost of flavor. If your soup tastes too rich, add another splash of vinegar to balance it out.
- Finish with cracked black pepper, bread crumbs, and parmesan.