Black Lentil Soup (Zuppa di Lenticchie Nere)

It’s soup season, and there’s nothing like an earthy legume soup to warm you up on a cold day. We’re big fans of lentils around here, as there is no shortage of them in Umbria. Two types that hail from this region are highly favored by chefs worldwide: Castelluccio lentils and black lentils. Black lentils are often called caviar lentils. Bon Appetit describes them as “glistening, bead-like beauties.” Not only are they pretty, but they’re also little nutritional powerhouses full of protein, fiber, calcium, iron, and potassium. We could all use more vitamins during this dreary winter stretch, am I right? Black lentils are easy to find in the US, as is Olivando EVOO. Both the Originale and the Monocultivar are in stock

We shared this recipe as a base from where to start. You can riff on it however you like. Variations are listed below. Get creative! But first, basics. 

Ingredients

Serves 5-6

4-5 tablespoons of Olivando EVOO, plus more for drizzling

1/2 pound black lentils

1 small-medium yellow onion

1 stalk celery

1 medium carrot

1 can of cubed tomatoes

6 cups broth, warm

Salt and black pepper to taste

Soft, fresh goat cheese, as much as your heart desires

Rinse and pick over the lentils, removing any debris. Warm the broth in a saucepan (covered, to prevent evaporation) and keep it nearby on the stove. Finely dice the onion, celery, and carrot. To make a “soffritto” you want the veggies to be chopped very small, like this:  

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven. Add 4 TBSP of EVOO and heat on medium-low until shimmering. Add the finely chopped veggies and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. We know some of you like your vegetables with a little crunch, but this is not that moment, trust us. 

Now it’s time to add the tomatoes and their juices. Stir and let them gently simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

Once the soffritto is ready, add the lentils and 2 cups of the warm broth. Let everything simmer over medium-low. You want a good simmer but not a boil. Once the liquid starts getting low, add another cup of warm broth and continue simmering/adding broth until the lentils are cooked, about an hour. It’s possible that you won’t use all of the broth; it’s really a personal preference, depending on how brothy you want your soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 

Once finished, ladle into bowls, top with fresh, soft goat cheese and a generous swirl of Olivando EVOO. Don’t be shy with the drizzle. Fresh olive oil on top of a warm bowl of soup completely changes the flavor profile. It opens up notes and hints of every ingredient used. Plus, it’s olive oil, a concentrated source of monosaturated fats, i.e. the good healthy fat that is the building block of Mediterranean diets.

Variations:
  • Even healthier version: Once lentils are cooked to preference, stir in fresh baby spinach while the heat is spent but the soup is still piping hot.
  • Meatier version: Start by browning sausage in the pot, breaking/crumbling into small pieces. Remove from pot, continue the recipe as above, adding the cooked sausage to the pot once lentils and broth have been added.
  • Italian trick: Add a parmesan rind at the same time as the lentils and broth. The cheese rind imparts deep umami flavor to any soup or stew. You can discard it or eat it (we always eat it). Where do you get a parm rind? Well we save it from the fresh cheese we buy. We store ours in the freezer – they never go into the trash.   
  • Spice it up: After drizzling EVOO on top, sprinkle with ground red pepper.

1 thought on “Black Lentil Soup (Zuppa di Lenticchie Nere)”

  1. Loved loved loved this soup!! I had never tried little black lentils and they are the best! I enjoyed drizzling Olivando on top with a little labneh or sour cream. I added miso broth and white miso to the soup pot to up the protein & it was delicious! Thank you!

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