Italians traditionally eat lentils at New Year as they’re supposed to bring wealth and good fortune. So make this incredibly delicious, nutritious, quick, easy and CHEAP soup and I guarantee you’ll have no money worries whatsoever this year. (We’ve been eating LOADS.)
This recipe is one of my own devising, so it’s all a bit approximate.
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic
2-3 tablespoons tiny cubes of bacon (experiment with this, pancetta would be what the Italians would use, we’ve had great success recently with maple smoked bacon. The little packets of cubed pancetta you can get in the UK would be ideal.)
1 tub of good tomato pasta sauce from the chiller cabinet (about 16 fl oz/500 ml). In Seattle my favourite is Cucina Fresca’s Marinara Sauce.
1 carton chicken broth (32 fl oz/ 1litre) or equivalent of chicken stock made with a cube for those of you in the UK who don’t have access to such a thing
1 cup green lentils (don’t use any other type of lentil. Puy lentils are the best.)
Finely dice the onion and sweat it down in the olive oil until soft and slightly golden. Towards the end of the cooking time crush the garlic and add it to the pan. Continue cookng for another few minutes, being careful not to let the garlic and onion brown, and then add the bacon. Continue cooking until the bacon starts to brown. Then add the tomato sauce, the chicken broth/stock and the lentils.
Simmer until the lentils are cooked, about 20-30 minutes. I like mine slightly al dente. Season with salt and pepper, then serve. If you haven’t used maple smoked bacon serve with a swirl of olive oil and lots of grated Parmesan (if you do use the maple smoked bacon I think the strong flavour of the bacon is too much for the cheese but you may beg to differ).
I keep Parmesan cheese rinds in a plastic bag in the freezer and it’s good to throw one of these in with the stock and sauce for extra richness and depth of flavour. A couple of handfuls of spinach leaves thrown in at the end are also a good addition.