Make Ahead

Classic Lentil Soup (Zuppa di Lenticchie)

March  6, 2021
5 Ratings
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

Lentils are present on the table of many an Italian household around this time of year, but especially in central and northern Italy, where they have long been considered good luck to eat on New Year's Day. As an old superstition goes, eating a plate of lentils -- round and small like coins -- will bring good fortune and money to the family in the new year.

It's a versatile dish that, like many good, simple peasant dishes, becomes increasingly tastier the day after. Some like to use half a tin of peeled tomatoes instead of the tomato paste or a glass of red wine. Pancetta can be added along with the soffritto (the chopped onion, celery, and carrot) for more flavor, but believe me, there is plenty of flavor without it. If you like, you can cook sausages directly in the soup or, for a vegetarian version, leave them out. Some soak the lentils for a couple of hours before starting to shorten the cooking time, but with this long, slow cooking method, there's no need to. —Emiko

What You'll Need
  • 10 1/2 ounces (300 grams) dried brown lentils
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 pinch of dried chilli
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cups (1 1/2 liters) of water
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • extra-virgin olive oil for serving
  1. Rinse the lentils and set aside to drain.
  2. Very gently cook the chopped celery, carrot, onion, and garlic in the olive oil in a casserole or soup pot over low heat until soft and the onion is translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring, then add the chilli and bay leaves.
  3. Add the lentils and cover with the water. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook about an hour over low-medium heat, then add the sausages (if using) and cook a further 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender (add water if necessary).
  4. Taste for seasoning and serve ladled into bowls topped with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. When reheating any leftovers, add some water to loosen the lentils.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Rita Reemer
    Rita Reemer
  • Margo
  • Akiko
  • Emiko

9 Reviews

mstv January 3, 2018
Made this without sausage (vegetarian version) and it was very tasty! Will make again.
Rita R. January 5, 2016
Have just made it. Absolutely loved the vegetarian version! Thank you so much for your wonderful recipes!
Margo February 3, 2015
Made this without any meat - pretty good with sour cream and hot sauce but next time I would use sausage or pancetta.
Aleta C. January 12, 2015
I used Linguisa a Portuguese sausage. I've also used chicken sausage. Both were great '
Jim K. January 12, 2015
And what sausage is that? Even optional sausage must exist somewhere.
Emiko January 12, 2015
You can use any sausage you like, really! The ones I used in the photo were Tuscan pork and fennel sausages and they are my favourite but feel free to use your own favourites ;)
Aleta C. January 9, 2015
hlcadieux January 8, 2015
This was surprisingly fantastic! I needed a "pantry" recipe and this fit the bill...I'm not sure if I've ever let a lentil soup simmer for so long (due to hunger and impatience), but with the right planning, it sure did make a difference in the flavor. As I made it without sausage, I added a few frozen, chopped mushrooms for some extra texture. Thank you for a wonderful recipe!
Akiko January 5, 2015
I like the simple recipe a lot especially the part that I don't need any broth. It same as Emiko's other soup recipe "Chestnut and Chickpea Soup" (, which is also my also favorite :) Thank you for the great recipes!