ORIGINAL RECIPE: “Lentil Soup with Pasta, Bacon, and Garlic” from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan*
TIMING: More than 1 hour
DIFFICULTY: Pretty easy
TOOLS: A soup pot and other usual things
COOK TYPE: Stovetop
HEALTH: Sure, there’s bacon, but conscientious (read: nitrate free, nicely-treated) bacon is a balanced (read: occasional) part of our family diet. Also, we try not to eat pasta too often, but this dish is still a winner with veggies, aromatics, and lots of deeply flavored lentils. Plus, this is serious comfort food that is way better for me than most the other comfort foods I crave.
EXPERIENCE: I just wanted some comfort food for dinner and I had some bacon in the fridge. I also am always on the lookout for bacon recipes which do not require other meats. This soup–which is more of what Rachel Ray terms “stoup” (stew+soup)–turned out really delicious, and super rich and comforting. We will definitely be repeating this one.
NOTES: I changed a couple things about the bacon from the original recipe. For one, I increased the bacon to accommodate an entire package, because I hate to have leftover ingredients around that I am likely to forget about. You could easily cut the bacon back to as little as 4 ounces.
For two, I crisped the bacon first and set it aside to top the soup because I hate mooshy bacon. I can never wrap my head around soup recipes that start with bacon in the pan and end up with soft bacon pieces floating in the finished soup. Ew. Stick with my technique any time this is about to happen to you.
- Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat and add 12 ounces chopped bacon and saute until browned and crisp. With a slotted spoon, remove bacon from the oil and set aside on a paper towel.
- Remove all but 1 tablespoon bacon grease from the pan. Return to medium heat and add 1/2 diced white onion, 2 stalks diced celery, 2 heads thin-sliced garlic, and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Cook, stirring, for about 15 minutes until nutty brown.
- Add 1 chopped large tomato (or 1 can diced tomatoes) and stir until oil separates from tomato.
- Add 1 cup green lentils and stir. Cover by 1 inch with water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook at least 30 minutes, checking the water level frequently.
- Test the lentils for done-ness. Taste for salt and pepper.
- Increase heat so that the soup is boiling, and add 1 1/2 cups small pasta. Stir and cook for the time required on the pasta packaging.
- Check the pasta for done-ness as well as the thickness of the soup. Serve topped with the bacon, a crank of black pepper, and Parmesan cheese.
Serve with a hearty, winter green salad, like spinach and walnuts with a shallot dressing. Red wine would also be nice.
*Recipe changed from the original.