winter soup with lentils and sausage


The relaxation that comes after a Thanksgiving cooking storm is much needed, but dinner following dinner (and some lunches too!) of leftovers becomes old very fast. It is nice to have a full refrigerator of food, but I start to miss cooking, and variety.
In an effort to return to the kitchen, ever so slowly and wearily (the dishes finally are all clean!), I made a delicious lentil and sausage soup with a lot of broth. Something flavorful, but light. The spices and herbs are just the beginning, and another layer of immense flavor is added by the Nduja sausage (I got mine from Boccalone).
The Nduja is a very soft and spreadable sausage of delicious pork parts all jammed and ground together, roasted peppers, and a mixture of herbs and spices. A native of Calabria, the southern region that is the end of the boot, the sausage is a representation of the culinary impacts throughout the areas’ history. The Oscan tribes first settled here (including the Itali!), but were overrun by Greeks, and later Romans. Arabs and Normans also ruled for periods of time. A variety of cultures, which all brought with them diverse cuisines. How lucky, to have such influences be integrated in ones’ cooking.

Winter Soup with Lentils and Nduja Sausage

lentil soup

Ingredients (for four servings):
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 large red onion, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, thinly chopped
1 bell pepper, medium chopped
1/2 teaspoon Spanish (smoked) paprika
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted and ground
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, ground (or alternatively about one tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely minced)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 cup lentils (I used Puy), picked through and rinsed
kosher salt
4+ cups pork broth (or vegetable)
about 2 ounces of Nduja salami, broken up/ sliced
1 cup+ tomato sauce or pasta sauce (when making pasta sauce, stop at step 5)
half of a small lemon, juiced (or ~ 1 tablespoon of citrus marmalade)
3 small tomatoes, diced
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1 in. cubes
tomato jam, optional
sherry vinegar, a splash
freshly ground black pepper
Italian (flat leaf) parsley, for garnish

1) First, and most important, gather everything. It may seem trivial, but there are a lot of ingredients here, so preparing all of them is a bit time consuming.
2) Over medium heat, add the extra virgin olive oil and butter to a large stockpot. Toss in the garlic and onion, and cook until the onion begins to soften, about 3-4 minutes.
3) Add the celery, bell pepper, paprika, fennel, rosemary, and oregano to the pot. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until you can smell the spices, and then add the rinsed lentils and Nduja salami. Stir a couple of times, to make sure everything is incorporated, then add a little salt, and finally the pork broth. If your broth has salt, adjust kosher salt additions accordingly, as the salami usually has a significant amount of salt. You may find you don’t even need the additional salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 10-12 minutes.
4) Once the lentils begin to soften, add the tomato or pasta sauce, the lemon juice (or citrus marmalade), tomatoes, and the potato. Cover and cook for another 15-20 minutes. Check to see if potato is breaking apart, the goal is to retain the shape of the cubes. The lentils will be soft when done.
5) You can add some tomato paste or tomato jam towards the end, but this is optional. The tomato will add a sweetness to the soup, as well as thicken.
6) Splash some sherry vinegar as soon as you turn off the heat, and grind some black pepper too.
7) Ladle into bowls, serving warm, and garnish with chopped parsley. Rustic breads (toasted and buttered ciabatta) go well with the soup, but I prefer oyster crackers.