Italian Lentil Soup Recipe | Zuppa di Lenticchie

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Italian lentil soup is a traditional vegetarian dish that belongs to the Italian cucina povera.

Ingredients and steps for this Italian soup recipe are very simple. You don’t need any special culinary skills!

Italian lentil soup is hearty and nutritious, a perfect comfort food for cold winter evenings.

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This Italian soup with lentils has countless local and regional variations. It’s a traditional dish in many parts of Italy, where the cultivation of lentils is very old and deep-rooted.

Lentils are legumes with high nutritional value, very light and digestible. They are an excellent source of vegetable protein, rich in iron, phosphorus and vitamins.

There is a wide variety of lentils, which differ in size and color. But now we are going to show you how to make the classic Italian recipe for lentil soup, the one famous in the Umbria region made with the prized lentils from Castelluccio da Norcia.

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Of course, other qualities of lentils are also fine, such as red lentils for example. The important thing is to choose lentils of excellent quality. The result will be terrific!

Enjoy this amazing Italian lentil soup with slices of homemade bread and you will have a really complete, good and nutritious dish.

Find out how to make Italian lentil soup recipe! Follow the step-by-step directions and tips.

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How to Make Authentic Italian Lentil Soup: Ingredients

PLEASE NOTE: preparation time DOES NOT include time for any soaking of the lentils (read the paragraph at the end of the recipe “Do Lentils Need to be Soaked Before Making Lentil Soup?”).

  • Prep Time: 10 Min
  • Cook Time: 40 Min
  • Servings: 6

  • 380 g (2 cups) of dried lentils
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 250 g (9 ounces) of potatoes (about 1 medium potato or 2 small)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 medium celery stalk
  • 1.2 liters (5 cups) of vegetable broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste

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Kitchen Tools and Equipment

To make the lentil soup recipe, you first need a cutting board on which to clean and cut the vegetables with a sharp knife and a peeler.

Then you need a large pot with high sides and a lid. Traditionally we use a Terracotta pot, which retains heat and cooks more evenly. This item is also very beautiful, decorates the kitchen and can also be a nice gift. Even an Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven make the trick.

To serve lentil soup, we recommend a set of Made in Italy Hand Painted Rustic Dishes. Check out this beautiful set of plates that will beautify your table and amaze your guests!


Italian Lentil Soup Recipe step 1 a

Step 1) – First of all, to make Italian lentil soup recipe, start by preparing the vegetables.

Wash and peel the carrot and celery. Peel the onion. On a cutting board make small pieces of carrot, celery and onion.

Finally peel and cut the potatoes into cubes, not too small. Otherwise they will split during cooking.

Italian Lentil Soup Recipe step 2

Step 2) – Pour the oil into a high-sided saucepan. Add the vegetables and a peeled clove of garlic.

Sauté over medium heat for about 3 minutes.

Italian Lentil Soup Recipe step 3

Step 3) – Add the chopped potatoes. Stir and cook for 3-4 minutes.

Then add the lentils.

If you soaked the lentils, drain them well from the water. If not, rinse them quickly and add them to the vegetables and stir (read the paragraph at the end of the recipe “Do Lentils Need to be Soaked Before Making Lentil Soup?”).

Italian Lentil Soup Recipe step 4

Step 4) – Now cover the lentils with the hot vegetable broth, about 1 liter.

Italian Lentil Soup Recipe step 5

Step 5) – Add a bay leaf, a sprig of rosemary, a tablespoon of tomato paste and a splash of extra virgin olive oil.

Italian Lentil Soup Recipe step 6

Step 6) – Stir everything together and cook over a gentle heat for about 30 minutes.

If necessary, add more hot water or broth while cooking. It depends on the more or less brothy consistency you want to achieve.

At the end of the cooking time, adjust salt and pepper.

Turn off and let the soup rest for about 10 minutes. Then bring to the table and serve with slices of bread. Serve Italian lentil soup piping hot.

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How to Store Italian Lentil Soup

You can store Italian lentil soup in the refrigerator for up to three days. Therefore, you can even make it ahead of time.

When it’s time to serve it, just heat it in the microwave or on the stove and top it off with a drizzle of oil.

Can I Freeze Italian Lentil Soup?

Yes, you can freeze lentil soup to have it ready whenever you feel like it. Store in the freezer for about 3 months.

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Do Lentils Need to be Soaked Before Making Lentil Soup?

No, not all types of lentils need to be soaked in water before cooking.

Let’s see together which ones are.

Dried Lentils

Dried lentils are the most commonly used. Directions on how best to cook them can usually be found on the package.

Unlike other types of legumes, soaking in water before cooking is not always necessary for lentils.

Soaking means putting them in water for several hours so that they soften and rehydrate.

Usually larger lentils are soaked overnight (about 6-8 hours). Small lentils (such as those from Castelluccio di Norcia that we used in our recipe) do not need to be soaked.

However, soaking them in water for at least 1 hour improves their digestibility and reduces cooking time.

Dried lentils, whether sold loose or unopened in their packaging, are still a product of the earth.

For this reason, even if you decide not to soak them, you should rinse them thoroughly before use. They may in fact contain some pebbles or soil residue. This way you will avoid nasty surprises under your teeth!

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What are Hulled Lentils?

These types of lentils are sold to us “hulled,” meaning with the skins removed.

Mainly they are small, red or orange lentils from which the skin has been mechanically removed. This process makes them more digestible, faster to cook and also suitable for those with digestive problems.

They need no pre-soaking unlike many legumes and as they are split (the skins removed so they split naturally into two halves), they cook very quickly.

This type of lentil, however, is not suitable for soups, but is ideal for velvety creams and meatballs.

Canned Lentils

Canned lentils do not require soaking because they are precooked and stored in their own water. They are ready to use.

Tips for Making the Best Lentil Soup

Add Salt at the End of Cooking

You may have noticed that we suggest adding salt only at the end of cooking. This tip is very important.

Salt prevents the lentils from reaching a tender texture. If you salt too soon, you risk finding the legumes hard and raw under your teeth or having to prolong the cooking time by a lot.

In addition, lentils tend to increase in volume considerable during cooking and therefore yield a lot in terms of quantity.

This is also why it’s good to add salt to the final amount.

Therefore, it’s best to take care to incorporate the salt only at the end. Don;t worry, the lentils while still hot and well mixed will absorb all the flavor.

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Choose Lentils of the Same Type

Another tip is not to mix different qualities of lentils.

They differ in color and size and also in texture (see next paragraph)

Each one has different cooking times and liquid absorption capacity.

This would result in a soup with unevenly cooked lentils. Some still hard and some possibly overcooked.

What Kind of Lentils are Best for Soup? Types of Lentils

Green Lentils

In Italy the best known quality of lentils is the green “Giant” from Altamura, grown in Puglia.

The name is due to its size, which is larger than common green lentils. It has a hay green color, an intense and persistent flavor and holds up well to cooking.

This is why it’s so good for soups and stews but also as a side dish. They should be soaked 8 hours before cooking.

Lentils from Castelluccio di Norcia, in Umbria, have been awarded the PGI mark and are greenish-brown in color.

They have a thin, tender skin that allows them to be cooked directly without soaking, greatly reducing preparation time.

Small and very tasty, they are perfect in soups or stewed with classic cotechino for New Year’s greetings.

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Red Lentils

Widespread in the Middle East but also widely used in Italian dishes, they are also known as “Egyptian lentils” (yellow or red).

They are small in size and are found commercially mostly dried and hulled.

Therefore, you don’t need to soak the red lentils, they cook quickly and are very versatile. You can use them (with vegetables or grains) for numerous dishes, appreciated even by children, such as soups, creams, velvety soups and croquettes.

Brown Lentils

These are the most common lentils. Medium to small in size and very tasty, they are perfect boiled in soups or even as a side dish for stewed meats.

Black Lentils

These lentils are also known as Beluga. They are small and perfectly shaped, flattened, glossy and dark like Beluga caviar.

Tasty and versatile, they are low in fat and high in protein and fiber. They cook quickly in just over 20 minutes and require no soaking.

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Italian Lentil Soup Recipe: Some Variants

Italian lentil soup is a one-pot dish, traditional to Mediterranean cuisine.

We have shown you the classic version of lentil soup, the completely vegetarian one. For an even lighter soup, you can omit the addition of potatoes.

Like many dishes of traditional Italian cucina povera, there are many variations.

We can add as many vegetables as we want, such as fresh spinach, diced squash, or mushrooms. The important thing is that the lentils remain the protagonists, both in terms of taste and quantity.

For a touch of spiciness we can add a chopped chili pepper to the soffritto.

In ancient traditional recipes it was customary to add pork rind to the legume soup to give it more flavor and substance.

We can also add diced pancetta to the soffritto. Your lentil soup will be even more irresistible!

In Tuscany it’s customary to add pieces of ham shank.

To make the soup even tastier, we can also add a generous sprinkling of grated Parmigiano cheese to the soup already on the plate.

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How to Make Lentil Soup with Pasta or Rice?

You can also add small pasta, usually tubetti or ditalini, or rice.

You can do it in two ways.

Cook the pasta or rice together with the lentils, adding them about halfway through cooking. In this case you will need to keep the lentil soup much more runny.

Or you can boil and drain the pasta or rice separately and then add them to the soup.

Pasta and Lentils or Rice and Lentils are traditional classic dishes of ancient Italian cucina povera.

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