Lentil and Sausage Soup for a Cold Winter's Night

December 28, 2009

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes:

This hearty one-dish-supper soup is in my regular fall-winter rotation, and has been a family favorite for quite a long time. That means three things: it tastes great, it’s not complicated, and I usually have on hand everything needed to make it. Once it’s served, people dig in and suddenly, the table’s quiet for a minute or two. Serve it with a hearty whole grain bread and follow it with fruit and cheese for a lovely, easy dinner at home. You'll see that the primary herb is marjoram. That's not an herb that you see often in recipes, but to my mind, it's what makes this soup so tasty. Enjoy!!


Food52 Review: The beauty of this soup is that it manages to be soul-warming but not overly heavy. The broth is light, and aromatic with wine and marjoram, and you feel like you've won the lottery each time you come across a piece of garlicky sausage. AntoniaJames has you simmer the lentils and veggies until they're just cooked through, so that they retain a bit of a bite and the soup, while filling, seems fresh rather than leaden. A sprinkle of red wine vinegar adds a bright hit of acidity. - A&MThe Editors

Serves: 4 with plenty of leftovers
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 1 hrs 15 min


  • 1 1/2 cups French green lentils
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (or bacon fat)
  • 1 pound Italian pork sausage
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
  • 1 pinch Salt (more to taste)
  • 3 celery stalks (and their leaves if possible), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried marjoram (or fresh marjoram, chopped)
  • 1/2 cup sturdy red wine
  • 4 large carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 4 cups chicken or beef stock (preferably homemade)
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 cups chopped spinach (frozen is fine; just use 1 1/2 cups instead)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 pinch Freshly ground black pepper (more to taste)
  • 1 dash Red wine vinegar (more to taste)
In This Recipe


  1. Rinse the lentils; put them in a large saucepan with about 3 cups of water and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot; add the sausage and brown, stirring frequently. Remove the sausage to a cutting board and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Reserve.
  3. Add the remaining oil, the onions and garlic, with a good pinch of salt; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft.
  4. Add the celery and marjoram, stirring over medium heat all the while. Add the wine and let it cook until reduced by half. Stir in the lentils with their cooking water, along with the stock, sliced sausage and the carrots; bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender and the broth is concentrated, 30 to 45 minutes.
  5. Ten minutes before serving, stir in the ketchup, spinach and parsley; simmer for another five minutes. Check for salt and correct. Add freshly ground pepper. Serve with red wine vinegar for guests to add, to taste.
  6. A bowl of this soup, with slices of hearty whole-grain bread, toasted, makes a fine one-pot supper.

More Great Recipes:
Soup|Bean|Carrot|Celery|Lentil|Parsley|Pork|Red Wine|Vegetable|Vinegar|Sausage|One-Pot Wonders

Reviews (304) Questions (7)

304 Reviews

HRH January 17, 2019
AJ, I love this soup so much. It was cold and snowy the other day, so I just had to make it! I used tomato paste in place of the ketchup, but balanced it with a little vinegar. I read your "wordy" version, (which is quite charming) and the little tips along the way are fabulous. Why did it never occur to me, to set the kettle of water on to heat while I was cooking other things? So efficient!
Mel A. November 2, 2018
This soup is fantastic. I'm new to lentils and this was approachable and delicious! I used hot italian sausage and broke it up into big chunks (since that's what I had on hand). It might have changed the aesthetic slightly but I still thought it was fantastic. Thank you!
Jen October 20, 2018
If I could make this soup every day, I would. Truly delicious and warming especially during chilly autumn days! One of my go-to meals.
Author Comment
AntoniaJames October 23, 2018
Thanks, Jen. So glad you like it. Indeed, I'm honored that it's one of your go-to meals. ;o)
Anna March 19, 2018
This was a nice soup but I didn't find it as amazing as most people who commented thought it was. There was an undertone of flavor to it that I didn't find too appealing... I think it may have been the ketchup which we found a bit weird in a soup I guess.
Gwendolyn March 13, 2018
Stuck at home today during another New England blizzard and had all the ingredients on hand to make a vegetarian version using Trader Joe's faux italian sausage. It came out great. The red wine adds a nice layer of flavor to the broth and the ketchup gives it some additional sweetness to contrast the saltiness of the sausage. I will definitely make this agin. Thanks for sharing!
Analida B. February 22, 2018
This soup sounds fantastic and I can't wait to try it. I have a Moroccan style Harira lentil soup recipe that is similar without the meat: https://ethnicspoon.com/moroccan-chickpea-and-lentil-soup-harira/
MBE February 15, 2018
Yum indeed! Didn't have any Italian sausage on hand so used the Jimmy Dean original pork sausage I had in the freezer and added some fennel seed and red pepper flakes. The only other adjustment I made was to use balsamic vinegar in place of red wine vinegar at the table. The best part is that the leftovers just keep getting better!
Megan February 12, 2018
Yum. I remember when this won, but only just got around to making it. I used kielbasa for the sausage and kale for the greens, but otherwise kept everything the same. I used my instant pot and from the time I walked into the kitchen to when I was sitting down to eat was a little over an hour. I love that this recipe can be prepped as you cook- very efficient. In the instant pot, I first browned the sausage while I chopped the onions, removed the sausage and added the onions and garlic, chopped the carrots and celery while those got soft, etc. I put the beans in dry- no precooking. I used 6 cups of liquid (4 cups broth, 2 cups water). Set it for 15 minutes on high pressure then 5 minutes of natural release and then quick release. Put it back on saute and stirred in the kale (I used more than 2 cups because I had a lot to use up), parsley, and ketchup. I needed to add a bit more water to loosen it up. So delicious! Don't forget the vinegar! Next time I will play around with even less cooking time because what I did was plenty. I'm not sure how much time the instant pot really saves, but it is hands off and allowed me to do a load of dishes and wipe down the kitchen before eating. Oh and I did it all with a fussy 2 month old strapped to my front. :) Thank you for this recipe!
Author Comment
AntoniaJames February 12, 2018
Megan, thank you. I love it when my recipes make people happy. ;o) P.S. I love the image of your making it with your 2-month old strapped to your front . I remember well those "fussy 2 month old" days.
Author Comment
AntoniaJames February 10, 2018
Here are links to the earler versions of this (they're quite similar): https://tinyurl.com/HLCBasicWintertimeLentil <br />https://tinyurl.com/HLCLentilSausageSoup<br />Stay warm . . . .<br />;o)
cosmiccook February 7, 2018
So what IS the "chatty" version? Antonia your faithful followers are clamoring for it!<br />
Author Comment
AntoniaJames February 10, 2018
Cosmiccok, I have two drafts which I'll link shortly . . . one, the original draft in Word, which I adapted while loading it into the Food52 recipe widget in 2009, and the other, a PDF of the version that was on the site for many years. <br />The backstory on its evolution:<br /><br />After my mother died, I started helping my father (in his early 80's, learning to cook!) build up his repertoire of dishes he would enjoy cooking and eating. I revised this recipe to make it more direct and quite a bit less chatty, because I thought he'd prefer it that way. I decided that the longer rendition on the site could discourage people who might think the recipe was more difficult than it actually is. Several people have commented, too, on it being a bit longwinded. I therefore sent to the editors the abridged version which you see. ;o)
Carine February 7, 2018
Just wanted to say that I miss the old, chatty version of this recipe! I have it printed at home but wanted to check the ingredients list before stopping at the store and I was surprised to see the changes. Alas! That said, I love, love, love this soup and can’t wait to have it today.
Carine February 7, 2018
Just wanted to say that I miss the old, chatty version of this recipe! I have it printed at home but wanted to check the ingredients list before stopping at the store and I was surprised to see the changes. Alas! That said, I love, love, love this soup and can’t wait to have it today.
Sherry Z. January 24, 2018
I just had to comment to say that this is one of the best recipes I've tried in a long time. I'm a serial-alterer of recipes and I didn't change A THING and it was fantastic.
Author Comment
AntoniaJames January 25, 2018
Thank you, Sherry. So glad you like it! ;o)
cosmiccook January 7, 2018
Oh YES to this soup--just about any recipe of Antonia's is worth making! I do have dried tomato on hand so I'll use that instead of ketchup?? Or do you need ketchup for thickener
Starmade January 7, 2018
dried tomatoes will be good I think; the ketchup is an interesting but optional ingredient in my own experience of this recipe
Author Comment
AntoniaJames January 8, 2018
The ketchup gives the soup a bit more complexity and noticeable umami boost. The dried tomato sounds like an excellent substitution! I'd add a bit of red wine or (or cider, or white wine, or sherry) vinegar right before serving, as well as putting a cruet of the same on the table, to get the brightness that ketchup also lends to this. Lentils can be a bit stodgy without it! ;o) P.S. Thank you, Starmade for weighing in.
Kt4 January 5, 2018
I'm making this for a big group of people for lunch in 1.5 weeks. So far we have 30 (mostly men) signed up but last year I ended up with 37. I will be serving this with grilled cheese sandwiches and don't want a lot leftover (I'm making a big dinner). My question is... You note this recipe "Serves 4 with plenty of leftovers". Do you think multiplying by 5 will work?
Author Comment
AntoniaJames January 8, 2018
Kt4 I'm so honored that you're considering this for your luncheon! <br />I'd X6 for this crowd, even if serving with the grilled cheese. Also, be prepared to add a lot of good stock shortly before heating to serve, because the lentils soak up the cooking liquid quite dramatically, even from the time you serve until the time you come back for seconds, turning it into a thick stew. I can make some suggestions for simplifying the cooking of this, but am time-pressed with client work for the next few days . . . . <br />I've tinkered with the recipe a bit over the years (the engineer in me is constitutionally incapable of *not* tinkering to improve efficiency, in the context of my personal crusade to plan and make-ahead components of our dinners using simple time management processes). I'll be in touch with more details as soon as I can. ;o)
cosmiccook March 19, 2017
My bad for not providing more details. YES Antonia, that's the method! Looks like cool weather is done in NO till next November (if we're lucky) so I'm looking forward to seeing your spring and summer culinary creations Antonia!
cosmiccook March 14, 2017
This soup came out wonderful! My husband who can be leery of lentils really liked it! I added Chaurice sausage--a spicy Cajun one--and it really added to the flavor.<br />Antonia, I have to grow Chervil in the winter (New Orleans) as by May its done w the heat here. I use Serious Eats method for drying it because it IS hard to come by. I just picked up some sorrel --grows well here--and am STILL looking for Savory--it doesn't do well in New Orleans. Thanks to Serious Eats drying method I can dry these. <br />GREAT RECIPE I always look forward to your posts and recipes!
Author Comment
AntoniaJames March 16, 2017
Are you talking about using the microwave? If so, Yes, Yes, Yes! I learned a few years ago via another source about drying mint in the microwave - apparently, the flavor of dried mint is preferred in certain Lebanese recipes. When my mint plant flourishes, I always take a few minutes to dry a jar full of it. The method works so well. I'm puzzled why the Food52 editors have never mentioned it on this site. For anyone who is interested, here's the link: http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/03/use-the-microwave-to-dry-your-herbs-for-long-lasting-intense-flavor.html <br />And thank you so much for your kind words, cosmiccook. ;o)
emcsull March 18, 2017
What a revelation ! Geez, cosmic and AJ, you have done it again !
Author Comment
AntoniaJames March 18, 2017
Glad, you found it helpful, emcsull. A revelation it is, indeed. Plus, it's the perfect project for when you have small pockets of down time, because you can do small bits at a time (it works best that way), and just set them aside if necessary. <br />I have an enormous amount of fresh marjoram thanks to the recent generous rain, so I'll be drying a few jars of it this week. The dried from fresh is so aromatic! ;o)
glammie March 9, 2017
Are you supposed to cook the sausages and then slice them or slice them first. The instructions aren't clear and I can't tell by the photos either. I see the sausages being cooked whole in one photo and then another when they are clearly browned on all sides....?
Cristina S. March 10, 2017
It's not my recipe, and I suppose you could go either way, but: when I make this soup, I slice first. The sausage cooks faster, and gives uniform brown bits across the bottom of the pan. I also think so much caramelized sausage surface area makes for a more flavorful soup, especially after a couple days in the fridge.
Author Comment
AntoniaJames March 10, 2017
Thank you, Cristina! <br />glammie, most raw sausages won't slice properly -- at least in my book -- for the purpose of getting those nice crisp edges when browned, and maintaining their shape. So, the sausage only needs to be cooked if it has not been pre-cooked (many available for purchase these days are). You could also use bulk sausage or squeeze the raw sausage from the links right into the pan with the onions, if you don't care whether the sausage is disc-shaped in the dish when served.<br /><br />Sorry I cannot edit this recipe here - it was a contest winner and those are locked forever. <br /><br />That said, I re-wrote this recipe for my father last year, to simplify it and clarify several points, including the one you raised. You can link to that version of the recipe on my Google Drive here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3To6CADchkSbl9qdmp5b3hNeFE/view?usp=sharing <br /><br />Also, a little dinner prep-ahead tip: If you know you'll be making this soup within a few days, and you have something else roasting/baking in the oven, you can always put your sausages in an ovenproof dish and pre-cook them, so easily, that way. I've also considered just plopping them in with the lentils, but haven't tried it. I have no reason to believe that wouldn't work. You just want the sausage to firm up enough to slice. It does not need to be cooked through. <br />I hope this helps.<br />Cheers. ;o)
glammie March 18, 2017
Thanks for your reply. I'm looking at the recipe again and was planning to make it today. Your suggestion for browning the sausage is a good one. I'm wondering why I wouldn't just do all of the browning (veg and sausage) then add the lentils with an appropriate amount of broth ... maybe 5 to 6 cups? If I do the lentils separately, how long do they simmer for? About 20 minutes? Do I cook them all the way through or just give them a head start? Sorry for all the questions! *lol* You're probably thinking what I always think when I see people post dozens of questions about a recipe: just make the damn thing! *lol*
Author Comment
AntoniaJames March 18, 2017
glammie, these are all great questions. You could brown the vegetables and sausage together if you wanted. I usually separate the two for what may be seen as a silly reason - I don't like how the red wine makes the sausage slices kind of pink when they cook together without any broth. (I've done this recipe every which way.) <br />I cook the lentils separately because they retain their flavor better that way; if you put them into a deeply flavored broth like this one, the lentils' flavor tends to be overwhelmed. Of course, if it's easier, feel free to do that. Many others do. Again, it's just a preference of mine. As for how long they simmer? I never time it . . . . I just get the lentils going and whenever I'm done with the other steps, I put them in. Once the lentil water gets bubbling, that's probably about 15 minutes. But again, it doesn't matter that much, as long as the lentils have had a chance to absorb the bay flavored water before they're joined with the rest of the soup. <br />Thanks so much for asking. ;o)
BavarianCook February 17, 2017
SO good! Yes to marjoram! In (some parts of) Germany we add spätzle to lentil soup, not an overpowering amount, just a handful or perhaps some leftover ones. Great recipe!
Author Comment
AntoniaJames March 10, 2017
Thank you, Bavarian cook and I agree, "Yes to marjoram." As noted in the headnote, that herb wasn't getting any love, at all, back when I first posted the recipe. I especially like it combined with bay leaf and red wine - my "holy trinity" for beef stew and so many hearty cold-weather soups. ;o)
Jo February 9, 2017
I made this soup last night. Delicious! And even better today for lunch after two hours of playing in the snow!