When my yen for soup set it, I knew this soup would hit the spot. It's been a while since my Grandpa passed away, but I still have a clear memory of him sharing this recipe with me. We were at his home in Florida (don't all New York-born Italian Americans dream of retiring in Florida?) 17 years ago. I think I had been asking about lentils or lentil soup for some reason, and he was surprised that my mom didn't have the recipe for his soup. A man of strong opinions, he averred that this soup was the lentil soup to make. He set his reading glasses on, pulled out a steno pad, and wrote this recipe down for me.
That's my grandpa sitting at the table, third from the left. He's passing a plate of food down the table. This photo must have been taken in the late 50s or early 60s. He sure loved to eat!
I'm not sure how this recipe was developed, whether my grandpa got it from his mother or from his own testing in the kitchen, but it has "family" stamped all over it for me now. It is a deeply satisfying lentil soup, savory with homey Italian flavors. I have to say that it is also ridiculously easy to make. No pre-sauteeing of mirepoix, no overnight soaking of legumes. Just chop a few vegetables and throw everything into the pot, then simmer away for 1-2 hours. You could make it on a slow weekend afternoon or throw it together for a quick dinner on a weeknight. And since it reheats well too, you can make it ahead of time and store it in the fridge for an even faster supper on a busy day.
So try this soup some evening soon, and when you do, remember my Grandpa, George Anthony Muligano.
Grandpa's Lentil Soup
2 cups dry lentils
2-3 slices bacon, raw and diced (I actually used chopped-up "Heart Healthy Ham" slices from Trader Joe's instead. The bacon is simmered, rather than fried, so don't be expecting crispy crunches of bacon in this soup.)
1/2 cup chopped onion (1 medium onion)
1/2 cup chopped celery (2 stalks celery)
1/2 cup chopped carrot (1 carrot)
3 T. snipped parsley
1 clove garlic minced
1 1/2 t. salt (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (to taste)
1 (16 oz.) can plum whole Italian tomatoes, cut up
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Rinse lentils, drain. Place in large pot with 8 cups water. Add remaining ingredients except tomatoes and vinegar. Cover and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Add tomatoes along with their juices and vinegar. Simmer covered for 30 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (For extra kick, I like to add a few dashes of hot sauce like Tabasco or Sriracha at the table!)