This is a recipe that my husband Michael (also known as the better-cooking half of The Manhattan Food Project) devised, and it's really phenomenal. I always think of Shel Silverstein's poem "Sky Seasoning" when we have this, particularly this line: Delicious delicious/(A bit like plaster),/But so delicious, goodness sake—/I could have eaten a lentil-soup lake./It’s amazing the difference/A bit of sky can make." —ManhattanFoodProject
2 with leftovers
pancetta, finely cubed (optional)
small or 1/2 large Vidalia onion, chopped
stalks celery, chopped
leeks, halved and then sliced into semi-circles
cloves garlic, minced
chicken stock or vegetable stock
14.5oz can of petite cut tomatoes
French blue lentils
Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds (optional)
parsley or cilantro, chopped fine for garnish
Heat the optional pancetta in the olive oil on medium-low heat for 10 minutes until the fat renders.
Add the veggies up through the leeks and the salt (if you chose to eschew the pancetta, simply add the veg to the oil) and sweat for 5-10 minutes, until the leeks soften. With a minute or two to go, add the garlic.
Add the stock, tomatoes and lentils, then bring to a boil. Next, reduce to a simmer and add the cheese rinds and spices.
Simmer this lovely concoction for 35-45 minutes, until the lentils are cooked to your liking (this will involve testing them every few minutes after the 35 minute mark). Normal and red lentils will probably be on the short side of the cooking time, Frenchies on the high side.
At this point, remove an amount of the soup to your blender and blend until smooth. Add this back into the pot to thicken matters slightly. I do not recommend an amount to remove because this is contingent on how smooth/thick/chunky you like your soup. I’d say around a cup is a nice balance. I don’t use my precious stick blender here; it leaves behind little half-blended soup pieces and lentil shrapnel unless your puree the entire pot.
Using the blender allows you to completely pulverize a small amount of the soup, leaving no fragments.