i’ve been making lentil soup for years but never really had a favorite recipe, just a general sense of what ingredients i tended to use. when i went to write down a recipe to share here, it turned out i was a little unclear on even what ingredients i liked to include.
my first keep-track-of-ingredients test batch included sausage, since it seemed obvious that sausage would be tasty. except, it wasn’t. not really anyway. it certainly didn’t add enough flavor to justify giving up “vegetarian” status. so, scratch the sausage.
i’ve been on a mushroom kick lately (here and here, for starters) so when the first trial batch of soup lacked umami flavor and depth, i figured i’d sauté some mushrooms for batch two. sautéed mushrooms turned out to be a keeper.
another fun learning experience for me was that tomato paste really makes a difference in the finished soup. in my first batch, i skipped it because i had the sausage and maybe i just forgot or didn’t want to open a new can or wasn’t sure it mattered. well, it does. batch two (no sausage, yes tomato paste) was noticeably much better than its paste-less brethren. tomato paste, yes. decided.
(and don’t fret about using just 2 tablespoons out of a can of tomato paste; it keeps forever-ish* in a ziploc bag in the freezer, ready for you to pull off a chunk next time you need a tablespoon of it. even when frozen, it’s still soft enough to break a piece off and after thawing on the counter for one minute, you can easily measure it.)
finally, i knew this ingredient was important but i just want to highlight it here in case you’re unfamiliar with the concept and think it sounds weird. tossing the rind from a hard cheese such as pecorino romano or parmesan into the soup pot makes for extra yummy lentil soup. if you want to keep the soup vegan/dairy free, you can certainly leave it out but if you have a cheese rind and you’re cool with dairy, i recommend it.
i actually stockpile cheese rinds in a ziploc bag in the freezer. they tend to accumulate over the summer when i’m not making soup and then i make my way through my stockpile over the course of the winter. basically, i am a squirrel. but instead of acorns, i have a freezer full of cheese rinds and tomato paste. you should too. we’ve got more soup-ing to do over the next few months.
*”forever-ish” is neither a real word nor a foodsafety.gov sanctioned length of time to keep something you intend to eat. but it’s mostly true.