If the availability of Starbucks’ pumpkin spice lattes weren’t enough to make one aware of the changing seasons, the advent of cool days and cooler nights certainly means autumn has arrived. In addition to layering, riding boots, and pumpkins, fall is the time to break out the big pots and begin making soup again.
When we got married, we didn’t ask for any cookbooks; fortunately, we received them anyway (otherwise, I’m sure I wouldn’t have encountered the recipe for this dish!). While I tend to find most recipes online, it is really fun to go through cookbooks and, oftentimes, I find recipes to make that weren’t even on my radar screen. The best example is Williams-Sonoma’s The Pasta Book, by Julia Della Croce. We made many of these recipes (or variants of them) during our first year of marriage, in Uzbekistan. One of our favorites ended up being the red lentil soup with farfallette, which we would make and then eat for lunch for most of the rest of the week.
- 2 1/2 cups red lentils (green ones work, too)
- 3-4 slices of thick bacon
- 6 T extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large yellow onions, minced
- 2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 6 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley or cilantro
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
- 3 qt low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
- fine sea salt
- kosher salt for cooking pasta
- farfallette, conchigliette, anellini, or other small pasta
- Pick over the lentils, discarding any grit or misshapen lentils. Rinse well and set aside.
- Slice bacon into small pieces and cook on the stove. Place on paper towels to drain and set aside.
- In a Dutch oven or wide soup pot over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onions, carrots, 3 tablespoons of the parsley, and the cayenne. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are well softened, about 10 minutes.
- Add bacon then the lentils and stir to mix well. Add the broth and 2 teaspoons sea salt, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the lentils are tender, about 35 minutes (longer if you use green lentils, which we have done in the past).
- While the lentils are cooking, in a saucepan, bring water to a rapid boil to cook the pasta. Check the package directions for the cooking time, then add 2 teaspoons kosher salt and the pasta to the boiling water, stir well, and cook, stirring occasionally, until about just shy of being al dente. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water.
- Put some pasta in individual serving bowls, then ladle the hot lentil soup on top and sprinkle with parsley, salt, and pepper to taste.
Adapted from The Pasta Book by Julia Della Croce
Note: We found that it was easier to keep the pasta and the main part of the soup separated and to combine them individually. We have never been able to finish all the soup in a day, and if the pasta is already in the soup, it sucks the moisture out when it sits for extended periods of time. Additionally, this allows each person to control how much pasta he or she wants in relation to the rest of the dish. The original recipe calls for cooking one cup of pasta, but Grant definitely likes to have more pasta in his soup.
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