The first significant snow of the season has fallen upon New Jersey and if that isn't a call to make a hearty soup, I don't know what is. As a general rule, the Soup Lady tries to avoid restaurant soup. I know I'm not the only one who thinks that's how they get rid of yesterday's leftovers. The one soup in this category that cannot be resisted is Carrabba's Sausage and Lentil Soup.
The soup is spicy (another tip-off that the ingredients are not quite fresh) but in this case I chose to ignore that. It's not hard to reproduce at home - this is my stab at it. A small green salad, some nice bread and some fresh fruit at the end is all you need to make this a completely satisfying meal.
Sausage and Lentil Soup
1. In a large saucepan, heat one tablespoon of oil. Add one carrot - diced, two stalks of celery- diced, one large onion- chopped and two cloves of crushed garlic. Saute until tender.
2. Remove vegetables from the pan and and add one pound of hot Italian sausage, removed from the casing, to the pan. Brown the drain off fat.
3. In a large stockpot, place eight cups of chicken broth, the sauteed vegetables and the sausage meat. Open two cans of whole tomatoes, break them up by squeezing them with your hands and add to the soup along with the juice. Add two cups of dried lentils which have been washed according to package directions.
4. Season with one teaspoon of salt, 3/4 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds and one bay leaf.
5. Simmer until the lentils are tender, 30-45 minutes. Remove 1/3 of the soup and puree it using an hand-held blender, then return it to the pot. Correct seasonings and remove bay leaf.
The Soup Lady likes it hot, so I added a bit more red pepper. Sometimes I like to add a 10 oz. package of frozen spinach to the pot, or to serve it with some red wine vinegar floating on top.