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Lentil Minestrone

by Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, published 1997

  • 2 T olive oil, plus extra virgin to finish
  • 2 c finely chopped onion
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 1/4 c chopped parsley
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 1 c diced celery or celery root
  • 1 c French (Puy) green lentils, sorted and rinsed
  • Aromatics: 2 bay leaves, 8 parsley branches, 6 thyme sprigs
  • 9 c water or vegetable stock
  • Mushroom soy sauce to taste (I usually use tamari)
  • 1 bunch greens - mustard, spinach, chard, broccoli rabe or the ubiquitous kale
  • 2 c cooked small pasta
  • Thin shavings of Parmesan, preferable Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat the oil in a wide soup pot with the onion.  Saute over high heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Add the tomato paste, parsley, garlic, vegetables and 2 tsp salt and cook 3 minutes more. Add the lentils, aromatics, water (or stock) and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.  Taste for salt and season with pepper.  If it needs more depth, add mushroom soy sauce to taste, starting with 1 T. (Sometimes a splash of vinegar is good, too). The soup may seem bland at this point, but the flavors will come together when the soup is finished.  Remove the aromatics.

Boil the greens in salted water until they're tender and bright green, then chop them coarsely.  Just before serving, add the greens and pasta to the soup and heat through.  Serve with extra virgin olive oil drizzled into each bowl, a generous grind of pepper and the Parmesan.