Everyday Cooking

Lentil and Sausage Soup with Kale

March  5, 2013

Merrill's baby Clara is finally old enough to eat solid foods. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, Merrill steps into the fray.

Today: Pantry soup, with lentils, sausage and kale.

Clara eating lentil soup

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Despite a lot of talk about the importance of planning ahead now that we have a baby to feed, I sometimes find myself at home alone on a weeknight, Clara's food supply dwindling, not having ordered groceries. On those nights, I make pantry soup.

Pantry soup depends on beans or lentils as a base, some Pomi tomatoes, a little sausage if we have it in the freezer, and whatever half-wilted vegetables stare up at me accusingly when I open the crisper drawer.

A variation centering around lentils, kale and chicken sausage happens to be one of Clara's favorites. She likes to pick up the pieces of sausage and carrot with her fingers and feed herself, while I take advantage of her open mouth to pop in spoonfuls of soup.

Feel free to improvise here: If you don't have lentils, use black eyed peas; if you don't have kale, use spinach (frozen is fine if that's all you've got); if you don't have carrots, give parsnips a whirl. Most importantly, don't sweat it -- pantry soup is meant to solve your problems, not add to them.

Lentil Soup with Sausage and Kale

Lentil and Sausage Soup with Kale

Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for browning the sausages
1 tablespoon bacon fat (or add another tablespoon of olive oil)
1 cup chopped carrots
3/4 cup chopped celery
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups French green lentils, rinsed
28 ounces canned chopped tomatoes (I use tetra-pack)
2 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
4 chicken sausages (or substitute another kind of sausage)
1 1/2 cups chopped kale

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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I'm a native New Yorker, Le Cordon Bleu graduate, former food writer/editor turned entrepreneur, mother of two, and unapologetic lover of cheese.


AntoniaJames March 20, 2013
I made a vegan version of this, simply by leaving out the sausage and giving it a hefty umami boost by (a) adding a handful (about ½ cup) of chopped dried shitake mushrooms that I’d hydrated, with their soaking water, and (b) stirring in toward the end about 2 tablespoons of doenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste, similar to red miso, but much tastier, in my opinion) at the end. I also added a bay leaf, because it just seemed right. And some chopped parsley, for the same reason. Result? Excellent, but made even better with a splash of red wine vinegar. ;o)
Merrill S. March 20, 2013
Yum. I love that vinegar technique of yours for finishing!
chefkeithsnow March 20, 2013
I can tell you're a smart cook....when the mat is removed..that huge gap in taste can be replaced by the meaty umami you mention..and dried shrooms have a ton of it..you can also make a dried mushroom tea to have a liquid umami source for stews, risotto etc...
chefkeithsnow March 13, 2013
I love this type of soup....hearty, warming and rustic too...I've made it with black beluga lentils too...way different color but tastes amazing...

Merrill S. March 13, 2013
Love beluga lentils...
chefkeithsnow March 13, 2013
got them in France last year....only one box left :( BTW you are doing a great job here on Food 52..just recommended your site to my fans on Facebook...I publish http://www.harvesteating.com so I know how hard it is to publish great content....keep it up Merrill...!
Merrill S. March 13, 2013
Thank you so much!
Mary A. March 13, 2013
A very similar lentil, kale and hot Italian sausage soup has been my go to week night meal for ages. I save end bits of Parmesan cheese in the freezer and add one of those to the simmering broth. Nice depth of flavour and I am pleased to use up my treasured cheese.
Merrill S. March 13, 2013
Great addition! I'll make sure to do this next time.
glutenfreealie March 9, 2013
This looks amazing! I make a lentil soup that it is my mom's recipe and it's very different than yours. It's a lentil and cabbage soup. I'm going to try your recipe soon. :)
Merrill S. March 13, 2013
Your version sounds great too!
AntoniaJames March 7, 2013
Would love to see "Best Pantry Dinner" as a contest theme!! Who doesn't need more recipes like this? I could certainly use a few. ;o)
Merrill S. March 13, 2013
As I suspect you may have guessed, this soup was partly inspired by your recipe!
lastnightsdinner March 7, 2013
Merrill, I made this for dinner last night (subbing our favorite jarred Cirio ceci for the lentils, since we were out), and it was a HUGE hit. Thanks for the inspiration!
AntoniaJames March 6, 2013
Hey, Merrill, I just posted another weeknight pantry soup your daughter might like -- red lentils + Pomi tomatoes + aromatics with a kala jeera tadka stirred in at the end. Requires a grand total of 5 minutes active cooking time. Maybe 6. If the toddler prefers having little things to bite, as this is a smooth soup, float some oyster crackers -- my sons' favorite at that age -- on it, or croutons. ;o)
Merrill S. March 6, 2013
Sounds perfect, thank you!
AntoniaJames March 7, 2013
And of course, what's left makes the perfect portable lunch the next day. Two problems solved!! ;o) P.S. It also freezes well, making it a great candidate for double or triple batching. I perk it up with a squeeze of lime juice.
Renee B. March 6, 2013
I know this will be delicious. It reminds me of a lentil soup with sausage recipe from Smitten Kitchen that I've made twice. Once with chicken sausage and once with pork sausage. The pork was more flavorful and held up better in the soup BUT both were delicious. Brilliant that you added bacon fat which, I'm sure is excellent.
mariaraynal March 6, 2013
Health food disguised as comfort food -- my favorite kind. The accusatory vegetables made me laugh. I hate it when they glare at me.
Kristen M. March 7, 2013
Vegetables can be so judgmental.
AntoniaJames March 7, 2013
Yes, the term "withering glance" takes on a whole new meaning in this context. ;o)
missbabs March 6, 2013
burak comment needs to be removed . . . is link to gambling site
amyeik March 5, 2013
This combo is probably my 19 month old's absolute favorite- he doesn't have a clue how good it is for him, but he totally goes to town on it. The best part about this kind of soup is that they can transition to a spoon as they get (slightly) more dexterous. The action is just as much fun as the taste!
Laura A. March 5, 2013
We made this tonight and it was awesome! Super hearty and delicious stew, and a great way to clean out my fridge to boot! My only change was a touch of cayenne pepper to give it some heat.
SMSF March 5, 2013
How much kale do you use? It looks like a fairly small amount.
(I also love the name "Pantry Soup"!
Merrill S. March 5, 2013
Ack, sorry! Just added the kale amount to the recipe page: 1 1/2 cups chopped. Of course, feel free to add more if you like!
laurenlocally March 5, 2013
I love having a name for this very same weeknight endeavor - "pantry soup".