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Italian Lentil Soup

Italians have traditionally thought of lentil soup as coming from "cucina povera," or the kitchen of the poor. It originated in Italy’s rural peasant regions, where necessity required humble, economical foods. Lentil soup, once a staple of cucina povera, is now popular in even the finest kitchens for its delicious taste. Modern cooks also know it to be hearty, healthy and packed with veggies. Lentils are high in protein and low in calories. They're also on Weight Watcher's Zero point food list. In other words, lentils are a super food!

This recipe for Italian lentil soup calls for green lentils, which tend to keep their firm shape when fully cooked, but you can use brown lentils if that's what you have on hand. During the chilly winter months I often stir up a pot of lentil soup and add either 2 cups of sliced mushrooms, which I add when sautéing the onions, or 2 cups of quartered baby Yukon gold potatoes. I haven't added both at the same time but now that I think about it, why not?

Italian lentil soup freezes beautifully. and like many soups/stews, it's even better tasting after being refrigerated for a day or two or frozen. Make it on Sunday and enjoy it throughout the week.

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

4 large garlic cloves, minced

2 carrots, chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped

Kosher salt and black pepper

1 (28-oz.) can whole tomatoes

5 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or to taste)

1 cup green (or brown) lentils, rinsed

2 cups baby spinach

1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped

Splash red wine vinegar

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are fragrant and somewhat tender, about 5 min.

Add the tomatoes and lightly crush them with a potato masher or the back of a fork. Add the broth, bay leaf, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes and lentils. Season with another pinch of salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and partially cover the pot. Simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender and cooked through but still intact.

Turn off the heat and stir in the baby spinach, parsley and a splash of red wine vinegar. Taste and season with more salt and pepper to taste. Top each serving with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6

WW Points per serving: 1

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