This lentil soup is one of many in my Sicilian mom’s arsenal of pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans) recipes. Of course, if you’re Sicilian, you pronounce it “pasta fazool.” It was one of my favorite soups growing up, the other being her version of Italian wedding soup. How many 5-year-olds today can say that lentil soup is their favorite?
For those who may not know, beans are an incomplete protein. When you add a carbohydrate, such as rice or pasta, the dish then becomes a complete protein. Many ethnic recipes combine the two to make some of the tastiest, healthiest, and most economical dishes you could ever eat. My sisters and I grew up on this kind of food. Our non-Italian friends thought it was quite exotic fare–now it is in culinary vogue.
My mom always used a small piece of salt pork as the basis for the fat to fry the garlic and tomatoes. In recent years, I have switched to using olive oil, thus making it a good vegetarian option.
If you like lentils, tomatoes, and garlic, you will love this soup. It is a tomato-y, garlicky delight!
Mama Musto’s Lentil Soup
- 1 lb. dry lentils
- 12 to 16 cups water
- 1 large onion, chopped
- Small piece of salt pork or 2 or 3 tbl. of olive oil
- 6 to 8 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 6-oz. can tomato paste
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 lb. soup mac, tubetti, or chili mac pasta cooked according to directions.
Place lentils and 12 cups of water in large saucepan. Bring to boil and add onion. Cook until lentils are tender, approx. 1 hour.
In 9″ or 10″ nonstick skillet, render fat from salt pork. Remove rinds when you have enough oil to coat bottom of pan. Alternatively, to keep the soup vegetarian, use olive oil. Sauté garlic in salt pork fat for approx. 10 seconds (you’ll need to sauté garlic longer if you’re using olive oil). The garlic will cook almost immediately if you’re using salt pork. Don’t let it burn! Remove the pan from heat if you have to.
Spoon the tomato paste into the frying pan. Be very careful because this will cause the oil to spatter. Do this off the heat if you need to. Add some cooking water from the soup and mix the tomato paste mixture with a wooden spoon. Add as much soup water as you require. Cook the tomato-garlic mixture until the tomato loses its bright red color.
Add cooked pasta and as much of the remaining 4 cups of water it takes to get the consistency you prefer. You may not need to add any at all if you like it on the thicker side. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I always add at least 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper.
Serve soup with a drizzle of olive oil.
Cook pasta separately. I always run cold water over it when it’s done to stop it from cooking. Otherwise, when you add it to the soup, it will continue to cook and get mushy.
Source: A Mama Musto original