Lentil & Vegetable Soup is a true classic. I have several lentil soup varieties in my recipe box, and this nutrition-packed italian version is a go-to for me because it’s quick & easy to make. Filled with lentils, vegetables, tomatoes, dried herbs and my secret weapon ingredient, it’s clean, simple and straight forward yet super flavorful and addicting.
As in most of my recipes, the health factor of this soup is equal to its deliciousness – here’s why….
Lentils are a nutritional power house and one of my favorite legume varieties. Packed with fiber, lentils help to cleanse the body, regulate digestion, aid in lowering cholesterol and manage blood-sugar. Additionally, lentils provide vitamin-b, protein and iron.
Vegetables such as the mix of carrot, bell pepper, celery & onion used in this recipe, add fiber as well as vitamin-a, potassium, iron, magnesium and vitamin b-6.
Adding parmesan rinds to a simmering soup is definitely one of my top five MUST-KNOW cooking tips. I use fresh parmesan regularly, both at my own home and at clients’ homes, so I always have parmesan rinds in the fridge or freezer. I throw them into any soup with an italian or mediterranean vibe. Parmesan is not an optional ingredient in this lentil soup – it is a primary member of the flavor profile. The amount of “umami” the parmesan adds is essential. Vegan? Use yellow miso instead to achieve the umami-ness and garnish with nutritional yeast.
Fragrant dried thyme and dried bay leaves add depth in this recipe. I use these particular dried herbs on the regular – they are 100% always on hand. I find that dried thyme and fresh thyme taste pretty much the same when used in dishes that are thoroughly heated (soups, pasta sauces, slow roasted meets, etc). I’ll use fresh thyme sometimes too, because I often have it around, but for my quick soups and homemade marinara, dried thyme is my standard. Dried and fresh bay leaves are also semi-interchangeable for me, BUT always use 1 fresh bay leaf to every 2 dried bay leaves. This is because dried bay leaves add a more subtle flavor, while fresh can be strong and overpowering.
Italian Lentil & Vegetable Soup
Servings: 4 Start to Finish: 1 hour
3-4 tbs olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 sweet bell pepper, orange, yellow or red, ribs & seeds removed, diced
1 large carrot, peeled & diced
2 ribs celery, diced
1 pinch crushed red pepper flake
sea salt, fine grain
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 dried bay leaves
1 cup green or brown lentils
1 14-oz can crushed tomatoes (i like san marzano and/or fire-roasted tomatoes)
4 cups low-sodium veggie stock or broth + water to consistency
1 large zucchini, diced
parmesan cheese rind, about 3″ long (use yellow miso, to taste, for vegan)
Optional Ingredients (for serving)
freshly grated parmesan cheese
fresh baby spinach or baby arugula
cooked brown or white rice
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add diced onion, pepper, carrot, celery, red pepper flake and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sweat veggies for about 6 minutes, stirring often. Add minced garlic and sauté for 2 minutes.
Add lentils, thyme, bay leaves, tomatoes, stock, 1 cup water, parmesan rind and 2.5 teaspoons salt. Stir to combine. Bring to rolling boil. Reduce to simmer, partially cover with lid and cook for 40 minutes, or until lentils are super soft and flavors have melded. In the last 15 minutes of simmering, add the zucchini.
Remove bay leaves & parmesan rind – discard. Season with additional salt to taste and freshly cracked pepper. Serve with listed “optional ingredients” for a full & balanced meal.
* you can always add water to achieve desired consistency – note that this soup thickens quite a bit when chilled so just add a splash of water when reheating