Continuing with the soup du jour theme, I wanted to share another of my Dad’s favorites: Lentil Florentine.
Lentil soup was a staple in my house growing up and it was often featured on the Lista’s menu. Lentil Florentine is really an Americanized name for Zuppa con Lenticchie e Spinaci or soup with lentils and spinach. In culinary terms, “a la florentine” (in the style of Florence) generally means something is served on a bed of spinach or topped with spinach. So, as was characteristic of Lista’s menu lingo, the lentil soup with spinach was called Lentil Florentine.
Lentils have been cultivated and eaten for thousands of years. They are a high protein, high fiber member of the legume family. And lentils are an important part of the diet in many South Asian, West Asian, and Mediterranean cultures. Lentils come in many colors and sizes but the most common are brown, green, and red. Interestingly, the world’s largest lentil producer/exporter is Saskatchewan, Canada.
In Italy lentils (lenticchie) are often served as a side dish with meats and fish. Lentils are commonly paired with pork (pancetta, speck, contechino, or fennel sausage) and cooked with rice or pasta. And, of course, there are several soup variations: Zuppa di Lenticchie, Minestra di Lenticchie, Riso e Lenticchie, Pasta e Lenticchie… and so on.
The recipe featured here is the simple classic prepared by my Dad, and served at Lista’s. It is basically a vegetable soup and if you substitute vegetable broth (or even plain water) for the chicken stock in the recipe it would be considered “vegetarian” and leaving out the Pecorino Romano will make it “vegan.”
Notes: I still make this soup often. When I make it at home, I will sometimes start with chopped mild Italian sausage (casing removed) and then cook the vegetables in the sausage drippings which adds another layer of flavor to this delicious soup.
I have also used up leftover diced ham by adding it at the end of the cooking time until heated through.
Many times I add cooked brown rice or small pasta like ditalini just before serving.
Vinnie’s Lentil Florentine
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium Yellow Onion – diced
2 large Carrots – diced
2 stalks Celery – diced
2 cloves Garlic – minced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp Salt (or to taste)
½ tsp Black Pepper (or to taste)
2 cups Brown Lentils – sorted and rinsed
8 cups Chicken Stock (or vegetable broth)
1 (10 oz.) box Frozen Chopped Spinach – thawed
1 (14.5 oz.) can Petite Diced Tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup Grated Pecorino Romano for topping
1. In a large soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery; cook and stir until onion is tender. Stir in garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper; cook for 2 minutes.
2. Stir in lentils, add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Squeeze water from thawed spinach and add spinach to pot along with tomatoes. Stir thoroughly and continue to cook until lentils are tender about 30 more minutes. Remove bay leaf and adjust seasoning to taste.
4. When ready to serve ladle into serving bowls and top with a generous amount of Pecorino Romano.
There you have it, Vinnie’s Lentil Florentine just like we served at Lista’s. This hearty soup is rich and very satisfying on a cool fall evening. Serve it with some crusty bread and a crisp green salad for a quick and healthy weekday meal. Leftovers are great for lunch the next day, and can be frozen in microwaveable containers for up to a month.
So until next time remember, “The Sauce Makes the Difference!”