If you enjoy the cuisine of Italy, you’re going to love this Italian Black Lentil Soup! It’s bursting with delicious flavor and will make your kitchen smell like a fabulous little trattoria!
I’ve never been a huge fan of lentils. I don’t dislike them, but I’m not over-the-moon crazy about these mini legumes either. That is… until this Italian Black Lentil Soup came along. This soup brings lentils to a whole new level and I’m most definitely over-the-moon (and maybe a few stars too) crazy about it.
And Scott? I’m pretty certain that he’s never completely finished a bowl of lentil soup in the past, but will ask for second and third helpings of this soup! It’s that delicious!
The original recipe for this Italian Black Lentil Soup came in an email from New York Times Cooking. It looked intriguing and, when I saw that there were tons of wonderful reviews, I decided to give it a try. I’ve made it a number of times, tweaking it a bit here and there, and we think it’s perfect now and ready for your culinary enjoyment.
What are black lentils?
If you’ve never tasted or cooked with black lentils you’re in for a wonderful surprise. Black lentils (often called beluga lentils) are in a league of their own. Bon Appetit describes black lentils as “glistening, bead-like beauties” and “the caviar of legumes”. They get their nickname, beluga, from their striking resemblance (when cooked) to beluga caviar, the most highly prized and expensive of all caviars.
Black lentils have a rich, yet mild taste and can take on a huge palette of flavors. They’re inexpensive (even at Whole Foods!) don’t take a long time to cook and yet they keep their texture and don’t get mushy.
Another winning attribute of black lentils is that they’re the most nutritious of all the lentil varieties. According to the USDA, “One-half cup of uncooked black lentils provides 26g protein, 18g fiber, 100mg calcium, 8mg iron, and 960mg potassium”. See what I mean? A nutritional powerhouse!
Where do you find black lentils?
Not every store carries black lentils. I’ve found them packaged at Whole Foods and also in their bulk bins. Several other stores in my area carry them. You can also find black lentils online. If they’re not available in your area, you can substitute green or French lentils (also called Puy lentils), which hold their shape better than the brown or red varieties.
A delicious lineup of ingredients in this Italian Black Lentil Soup
In addition to black lentils, there are lots of other flavorful ingredients in this delicious Italian Black Lentil Soup. The recipe starts with a pound of Italian sausage which is browned until golden then drained and set aside. A bit of the sausage drippings is reserved for sautéing onion, garlic and Italian seasoning. Next comes a nice splash of white wine which is reduced to enhance the flavor. All remaining ingredients, chicken broth, crushed roasted red peppers, Italian tomatoes, bay leaves and kosher salt are added and the soup is simmered until fragrant and delicious.
There are a few fun finishing touches for this soup. It might sound strange but a tablespoon of red wine vinegar adds a touch of brightness and a generous handful of fresh basil brings lots of vibrant flavor. Finish off this delicious Italian Black Lentil soup with a sprinkle of shaved parmesan and a bit of additional fresh basil. Favoloso!
Café Tips for making this Italian Black Lentil Soup
- This soup calls for San Marzano tomatoes. These delicious tomatoes are grown in Italy in the Valle de Sarno region, which is known for its rich volcanic soil. These tomatoes are prized for their rich flavor, tender texture, and mild acidity. You can find San Marzano tomatoes at most larger grocery stores or online. Costco also carries them in a 3-pack. If you can’t find San Marzano, look for Italian plum tomatoes or fire-roasted canned tomatoes.
- When buying roasted red peppers, look for jars with deep red peppers. Roasted red peppers are available in most grocery stores in the vegetable section. Both Trader Joe’s and Aldi have wonderful roasted red peppers for a great price.
- Every brand of Italian sausage is a little different in regards to spice. I’ve used Johnsonville, a local store brand and Aldi Italian sausage for different batches of this soup. All of them are good but different. If you like things spicy, feel free to use spicy Italian sausage and add a pinch of red pepper flakes.
- This is a thick, hearty soup. Rachel Ray would probably call it a stoup (a combination of soup and stew). It makes a nice main course meal. If you want it a little thinner, just add some additional chicken broth.
- This is one of those soups that’s delicious right after it’s prepared but it gets even better as the flavors have a chance to meld and marry. This makes it a wonderful make-ahead meal as well as a soup that’s great to enjoy as a leftover.
- I love to serve this Italian Black Lentil Soup with these Easy Artisan Rolls or these Brioche Dinner Rolls.
- Be prepared to have jealous co-workers if you take this to work and warm it up for lunch! You might want to bring extra!
If you enjoyed this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear other’s results and ideas for variations.
If you love hearty soups like this one, you’ll also enjoy this Homemade Chicken Pasta Soup. It’s super popular with so many of our readers!
If you enjoy the cuisine of Italy, you're going to love this Italian Black Lentil Soup! It's bursting with delicious flavor and will make your kitchen smell like a fabulous little trattoria!
- 1 pound mild or sweet Italian sausage in bulk or removed from its casing
- 1 large onion
- 6 garlic cloves finely minced
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- ¾ cup dry white wine
- 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 2 cups dried black lentils (sometimes called beluga) you can also use green or French lentils
- 12- ounce jar roasted red peppers
- 28- ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- ¾ cup fresh basil leaves roughly chopped if they're large
- shaved Parmesan for topping
- extra basil leaves for garnish if desired
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, cook the sausage over medium heat, breaking it up with a metal spatula, until it’s in small, bite-size pieces. Continue cooking until it’s nice and golden brown. Remove the sausage to a plate with a slotted spoon. Leave 2 tablespoons of fat in the pot and discard any extra.
- Add the onion to the pot and cook over medium-low for 4-5 minutes, until softened and translucent. Stir the onions occasionally as they cook, scraping up the brown sausage bits on the bottom of the pan as the onions give off their juices.
Add the garlic and Italian seasoning. Cook for another 30 seconds, stirring continuously. Pour the wine into the pot and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has been evaporated.
- Add the chicken broth, Italian sausage and lentils to the pot and bring to a boil.
While the mixture is coming to a boil, drain the roasted red peppers and discard the liquid. Break the peppers into bite-size pieces with your fingers and add to the pot. Next drain the tomatoes over a bowl, reserving the liquid. Break the tomatoes into bite-size pieces with your fingers and add to the pot along with the tomato liquid.
Add the bay leaves, salt and pepper to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a nice steady simmer and cook, covered (with the lid slightly vented), for 45-50 minutes. Remove from heat and add the red wine vinegar and chopped basil. Stir to combine.
Taste the soup. The lentils should be firm, but creamy on the inside.(Black lentils can vary in their cooking time depending on their age, so you may need to cook some a bit longer.) Add more salt, if needed. Remove the bay leaves. I like to let this soup sit for about 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors meld and marry. Serve garnished with more fresh basil and a bowl of shaved parmesan to pass at the table. Enjoy!
See Café Tips above for further instructions and tips.
Adapted from The New York Times
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