It’s been icy cold and rainy here.
Perfect weather for Sausage Lentil Rice Soup. That might be the only perfect thing about this weather. There’s nothing quite so special as going grocery shopping during a freezing downpour, especially when you’re me, who has a list that always requires no less than three grocery stores. I usually forgo an umbrella when grocery shopping in the rain, but I had to break it out yesterday or risk being completely soaked by the time I got to my second stop. I was fantasizing about an umbrella holder for my trunk by the second stop as I was trying to load groceries, hold the umbrella and rearrange bags so that fragile items didn’t get crushed. By the time I got home, I had to change anyway. The groceries fared much better than I, who only half succeeded in staying dry.
Enter my sister, Jennifer, who was the mastermind behind Mediterranean Pasta with Rosemary Scented Prosciutto (aka Jenny’s Pasta.) When I say “enter,” I’m speaking figuratively, of course, since she lives on the other side of the country. She shared this delicious recipe with me a million years ago (yes, a million and a thousand are my standard time frames for everything.) In that time, I have made it many times, each and every winter season. It is hearty and warming and incredibly satisfying especially after wading through arctic puddles in grocery store parking lots.
It starts much like many soups with some aromatics, onion and garlic along with carrots and fennel. I love fennel. When it hits the hot pan, the aroma is released and smells wonderful. It punctuates the flavors in the mild Italian sausage that will be added next. Use a sausage that you love on its own. I use a mild Italian sausage, but if you like a spicy soup, go for hot Italian. The last time I made this, I bought a sausage from a local farm that I hadn’t tried before. It didn’t have as much flavor as I had hoped, so I just increased the fennel by a half teaspoon, and that seemed to remedy the issue. You could also add a pinch of red pepper flakes if you want to add more heat. Just remember that a flavorful sausage will render you a flavorful soup.
After the sausage is browned, just pour in the chicken stock and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Once it boils, reduce to a simmer and add in the lentils and uncooked brown rice. Then, it just simmers until the rice and lentils are cooked. I love it when you just add stuff to a pot and it turns into a meal.
While it’s cooking, chop up some basil and grate a bit of pecorino Romano cheese. I use Pecorino Romano, specifically, Locatelli, my favorite hard cheese. I always have a block on hand. Like chocolate, good cheese makes a difference.
Finally, the spinach is added; it wilts within minutes and you’ll serve this delicious Sausage Lentil Rice soup while the spinach is still a beautiful shade of green. A sprinkling of fresh basil and Romano and you are ready for one delicious soup, that is hearty enough to call a stew. I usually add some crusty bread and maybe a side salad…
and dinner is served.
Sausage Lentil Rice Soup
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 2 large carrots diced
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage bulk or removed from casing
- 2 bay leaves
- 12 cups chicken broth I use low sodium organic
- 1 cup brown lentils rinsed
- 1 cup brown rice (uncooked regular, not instant or quick cooking)
- 10-12 ounces fresh baby spinach
- fresh chopped basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- freshly grated Locatelli Romano cheese
- Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.
- Add the onion, garlic, carrots and fennel. Cook until soft and golden, about 5 minutes.
- Add the raw sausage and cook over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the sausage until browned.
- Add the bay leaves and chicken broth.
- Cover and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the lentils and rice.
- Simmer uncovered until the lentils and rice are cooked. This could take 20-30 minutes. Just check for desired tenderness at 20 minutes and add time as needed.
- Skim off any foam or extra fat that collects on the surface.
- Remove bay leaves and add the spinach during the last 5 minutes of cooking. It will look like a lot of spinach, but will wilt quickly as you stir it into the hot soup.
- Sprinkle each serving with fresh basil and romano cheese.
*The original recipe called for only 1/2 pound of sausage, but I always had leftover, so I would just add it in. It makes for a heartier soup, which we love, but you can use half the amount if you prefer.
*I use a low sodium chicken broth and usually add in about a teaspoon of salt. If you don't use low sodium, you may not need any extra salt. Always taste before seasoning. The cheese topping will also add a salty bite.
*I use two bags of baby spinach...they're usually 6 ounces each. If I have extra, I'll add that in as well. It wilts down and extra veggies are always good.
Recipe from my sister, Jennifer
The Merchant Baker © 2015