Lentil Soup


Recipe from The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
by Marcella Hazan (1992, Alfred A. Knopf)

Serves 6

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons onion, chopped very fine cup shredded prosciutto or unsmoked ham
2 tablespoons carrot, chopped fine
2 tablespoons celery, chopped fine
1 cup canned Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice
½ pound dried lentils
4 cups homemade meat broth
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Put 2 tablespoons of the butter and all of the oil in a soup pot, add the chopped onion and prosciutto and turn on the heat to medium high. Do not cover the pot. Cook the onion, stirring it, until it becomes a deep gold.

Add the chopped carrot and celery. Cook at a lively heat for 2 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the tomatoes with their juice, and adjust the heat so that they bubble gently, but steadily. Cook for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, wash the lentils in cold water and drain them. Add the lentils to the pot, stirring thoroughly to coat them well, then add the broth and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cover the pot, adjust the heat so that the soup cooks at a steady, gentle simmer, and stir from time to time. Generally, it will take about 45 minutes for the lentils to become tender, but each lot of lentils varies, so it is necessary to monitor their progress by tasting them. Some lentils will absorb more liquid than others. If necessary, add more broth while cooking or, if you are not using homemade broth, add water.

When the lentils are done, before turning off the heat, add the remaining tablespoon of butter and swirl in the grated Parmesan. Taste and correct for salt and pepper.

Serve with additional grated Parmesan for the table.

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