Italian lentil soup is a hearty soup that is perfect for cooler weather. Simple to make and budget friendly, our version includes carrots, onions, celery, and plum tomatoes, plus baby spinach, a touch of oregano, and a rind of Parmigiano Reggiano. Perfect served alongside a salad, sandwich, or some crusty bread, this soup can be ready in about 1 hour.
One of the things I like best about Italian lentil soup is that it can be made with items that I almost always have on hand in the pantry, and in the refrigerator.
I also appreciate the simplicity of Italian lentil soup.
This is the soup I grew up eating. Nothing fancy about it at all. In fact, it is really basic.
But sometimes when I need a little comfort, a distraction from the craziness of life, I turn to food that brings me back to the coziness of my childhood.
And that's exactly what I experience every time I smell this soup simmering on the stove, and filling my belly.
How to make the best lentil soup
Note: Whenever using lentils, make sure to inspect them in a bowl for any hard rocks or debris and be sure to discard.
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Dice 2 celery ribs, 2 medium carrots, and 1 medium onion. Tip: Include the celery leaves for more flavor!
- Heat a large heavy pot to medium-low and add a ¼ cup of olive oil along with the carrots, celery, and onion. Cook until soft and translucent (about 10 minutes).
- After the veggies are nice and soft add in 3 ounces of tomato paste (half a standard can) and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes.
- Next, add in 8 ounces of hand-crushed plum tomatoes, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, 1 bag of lentils (standard 1 pound bag), a Parmigiano Reggiano rind, and 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cook over a simmer until the lentils are soft (about 45-50 minutes). Note: I always recommend saving the rinds from Parmigiano Reggiano blocks. They add great flavor to almost all soups! Just omit this step if you don't have one.
- Taste test the lentils to make sure they are all tender and that no hard pieces are left. Once satisfied, turn off the heat and add the baby spinach.
- Adjust salt and pepper to taste to get the flavor just right.
Drizzle your best extra virgin olive oil onto each bowl and offer grated cheese for anyone who would like some.
Top tips for Italian lentil soup
I've made lentil soup several hundred times in my life and have picked up a few tips along the way.
- Check your lentils. Whenever working with lentils, make sure to inspect them in a large bowl for any hard pebbles or debris. Sometimes they can erroneously be packaged at the sorting facility. Just discard anything that is not a lentil.
- Save your Parmigiano Reggiano rinds. When you've used the last bit of cheese and are about to toss the rind, think twice. Adding the rind to sauce and soups, like this spicy sausage potato and kale soup or pasta e ceci adds another layer of flavor that is just so darn good.
- Make ahead of time. Making any soup ahead of time and allowing it to sit in the fridge for a day or two will allow the flavor time to mature, yielding an even better tasting soup.
- Don't be afraid to add. I added baby spinach to this recipe, but don't be shy to add other ingredients depending on your mood. I usually add red wine vinegar right before I eat lentil soup. My wife usually adds Greek yogurt to hers for some extra protein. Sausage or even ground turkey would be great add-ins as well.
More from my pantry
As I mentioned before, I love having pantry staples, such as lentils or beans, on hand for a rainy day. Some of my favorite pantry recipes include:
- Pasta e lenticchie - If you like lentils, you'll love pasta e lenticchie which includes mismatched pasta, lentils, onions and garlic. It's not soup like this lentil recipe and more of a creamy pasta dish.
- Easy marinara sauce - Pasta, canned tomatoes, garlic, and basil. It doesn't get any easier than this.
- Cacio e pepe - Pasta with Pecorino Romano cheese and black pepper. Simple ingredients with step-by-step instructions on how to perfect the technique.
- Linguine Aglio e olio - Pasta with garlic, oil, crushed red pepper flakes, and parsley.
More great Italian-style soups
In addition to the spicy sausage potato and kale soup I mentioned above, these soups are some of my favorites, and more reasons to hang on to those Parmigiano Reggiano rinds!
- Italian wedding soup - Tiny turkey meatballs, acini di pepe, fresh spinach, and escarole join together in this ultra comforting classic soup.
- Ribollita soup - This Tuscan soup combines kale, beans, zucchini, and day-old bread.
- Chicken noodle soup with meatballs - Tiny meatballs are simmered with chicken meat and broth with carrots, onion, celery, farfalline pasta, fresh parsley, and Pecorino Romano.
- Instant Pot pasta fagioli - Also known as PASTA FAZOOL, this soup combines beans, ditalini pasta, pancetta, and rosemary.
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- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 2 ribs celery diced
- 2 medium carrots diced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 ounces tomato paste
- 8 ounces canned plum tomatoes hand crushed
- 8 ounces baby spinach
- 8 cups water
- 16 ounces brown or green lentils see notes below
- 1 rind Parmigiano Reggiano optional, see notes below
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat a large heavy pot to medium-low and add the olive oil, carrots, celery, and onion. Cook until soft and translucent (about 10 minutes).
- Add in the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes.
- Next add in the plum tomatoes, oregano, lentils, Parmigiano Reggiano rind, and water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and cook over a simmer until the lentils are soft (about 45-50 minutes).
- After the lentils are cooked through and tender, turn off the heat and add the baby spinach.
- Taste test and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve in bowls with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and with grated cheese on the side. Also, serve with crusty bread. Enjoy!
- Makes 8 moderate or 6 large servings.
- Brown and green lentils can both be used. Brown cook a bit quicker and have a milder taste than peppery green lentils.
- Always save your Parmigiano Rinds! They are excellent for soups like this, but if you don't have one just serve with grated cheese.
- A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and/or a splash of red wine vinegar is an excellent addition to each bowl.
- Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the microwave. Lentil soup can be frozen for up to 3 months.