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This Italian Lentil Soup Recipe With Guanciale Is Great!

This Italian Lentil Soup recipe is made even better with the addition of guanciale and it is so easy and delicious you will want to make it every week!

Italian Lentil Soup Recipe - Lentils, Guanciale and Vegetables

Lentils, Guanciale and Vegetables

This recipe of Lentils and Guanciale is a little more difficult than the previous Bean and Potato Salad because it involves a couple more kitchen skills, for example, sauteing is a key part of this dish. I’m still rating the difficulty as Easy, but more accurately it is between Easy and Moderate.

I’m being a little loose with the definition of Italian Food, because I used to make this in the US quite often, but in my defense, Lentils (Lenticchie) are very Italian and using guanciale instead of bacon really plants the flag here in Rome. There are a lot of variations to this recipe that I will include below which allow for experimentation and improvements for your dinner table.

Kitchen Tools And Cookware

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Santoku Knife

The Santoku style knife is my favorite when I’m cooking and Victorinox makes a great one!

Pasta MakerGnocchi BoardPasta BoardRavioli Maker
Ravioli Press/StamperRicerBialetti Pasta PotBamboo Cutting Board Set of 3
Silpat Baking MatSantoku KnifeMeasuring Cups and SpoonsStainless Mixing Bowls
Dutch OvenMesh StrainersStainless ColanderStainless Steel Fry Pan

Italian Lentil Soup Recipe Ingredient Descriptions

Cooking Lentils

For this version of the recipe I used Lenticchie Altipiani di Colfiorito, which as you might imagine from the name are, in fact, Italian. They are from the village of Colfiorito, in Umbria and can be recognized by their very small size and by the range of colors from green, to pink, to tobacco. Personally, I am not as big a fan of smaller lentils, but they were in the pantry, so here we are.

Mixing Bowls

Only recently have a realized how great mixing bowls with lids are and these stainless steel beauties are amazing!

If you have other lentils on hand, or want to try something new, my recommendation is to stay away from red lentils, or the other types that are used in an Indian Dal, because they get too soft for this dish. You will want to use a type of lentil that maintains its structural integrity and still has a little bit of a bite once it is cooked. My favorite, that I used to get in the US at Wegmans, are the Pardina Lentils, which do a great job of holding their shape after cooking. Pardina are originally from Spain, so keep that in mind if you want to keep all your ingredients Italian. Green or brown lentils from Goya will work just as well in a pinch.

Another Delicious Guanciale Recipe

I was so excited to need to buy guanciale that I spent days thinking about how I was going to ask the butcher for a slab of it.

Italian Lentil Soup Recipe - Guanciale

Rendering The Guanciale

If you are unfamiliar with guanciale, it is cured pork cheek that has been salted and rubbed with spices. It is an amazing ingredient that is foundational here in Rome. Three of the four pasta in Rome classics (Amatriciana, Carbonara and Gricia) use guanciale.

On a personal note, it is so much better than bacon that I get annoyed when I hear cooks say that bacon is just as appropriate as guanciale. I understand that finding guanciale outside of a “Little Italy” section of a bigger city can be challenging, but it is not the same and it is worth the extra effort to find it.

Soffrito Definition

When I had some time in my schedule a few years ago I took cooking lessons at the CIA. I wasn’t a student, unfortunately. Instead, I earned a moniker they used to use, which was an Enthusiast. They offered a selection of classes for Enthusiasts on cooking in a traditional French-style kitchen, which are fantastic and I highly recommend them. This is a long way of saying that I learned how to use a mirepoix, which is foundational to French cooking.

Italian Lentil Soup Recipe - Carrots, Onions and Celery

Carrots, Onions and a little Celery

I later learned that Spanish cooking uses something similar to a mirepoix called a sofrito, and not long ago I unsurprisingly learned that a soffritto is used here in Italy. So, what is a soffritto? It is a mix of vegetables, typically onions, carrots and celery, that are sauteed in oil and used as the base for stews, soups and stocks.

Colander – 5 Qt.

OXO makes some great products that really take the home cook into account and this colander is no exception.

The ratio of these three vegetables are typically 2 parts onions, to 1 part carrots and 1 part celery. The reason for double the onions, as it was explained to me, is because there is considerably more water in an onion than in the other components. This is where I chose to vary the ingredients because I strongly dislike celery.

Stock For Cooking Italian Lentil Soup

I know this might seem like a lot of work, but while I was in the US, I enjoyed making my own stock from scratch, and when I didn’t have time, there were good options available in the grocery store. For example, College Inn offers a great selection of chicken and beef stocks. Unfortunately, I don’t think stock is as popular in Italy and what I’ve found is that small cubes, similar to bouillon cubes, are more popular. I don’t care for the taste of these, so I will continue to search for alternatives, but I used them in this recipe because I didn’t have any other options.

Herbs And Seasoning For Lentil Dishes

For lentils, because in the past I’ve cooked a more French style recipe, I liked to use thyme, but it is harder to find at my local fruttivendolo, so in this recipe I went with a variety of herbs that were available at the time. Again, this is another area of experimentation because you can add whatever herbs you like. 

In this version, my herbs included: parsley, rosemary, a lot of sage and only a little basil, and I finished with salt and pepper. Be careful with the salt because the guanciale can be very salty and might throw off the dish.


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Delicious Lentil Soup Options

This dish is very flexible, so feel free to try any one of these variations:

  • As I mentioned above, you can easily substitute different lentils, like green, brown or Pardina lentils. You just want to avoid softer lentils, like red Dal lentils, because they get too soft when they cook. 

  • I shudder to say this, but if you can’t find guanciale, you can use bacon or speck. I wouldn’t recommend pancetta because it has a little too subtle of a flavor for this dish.

  • I mentioned above that various herbs can be used, especially thyme, but swap in and out your favorites and see what works for you and your family.

  • A strong suggestion is to use real chicken stock, or the highest quality stock/broth for sale in your local grocery store and I will continue to look for alternatives to the bouillon cubes I used here.

Italian Lentil Soup Recipe - Sauteing The Soffritto

Sauteing The Soffritto

Italian Lentil Soup Recipe

  • Difficulty: Easy

  • Key Skills: Sauteing, Dicing

  • Prep Time: 30 mins

  • Cook: 60 mins

  • Servings: 4-6, depending on how hungry you are.

Ingredients

  • Lentils, 14 ounces / 400 grams

  • Guanciale, 8 ounces / 240 grams

  • Onions, 8 ounces

  • Carrots, 4 ounces

  • Celery, 4 ounces

  • Chicken Stock, 2 quarts (or water and 2 cubes of Bouillon cubes)

  • Various Herbs, small bunch (e.g. parsley, rosemary, sage and basil)

  • Lemon, 1 whole

Steps to Make The Italian Lentil Soup

  1. Clean, peel and dice up your soffritto (onions, carrots and celery) into a small dice

  2. Trim the guanciale, removing skin and hard bits, and cut the guanciale into Batons

  3. Sauté the guanciale in a larger soup pan until brown. Remove the pieces and leave the rendered guanciale fat

  4. Add the soffritto to the rendered fat and sauté until soft

  5. Add the lentils to the vegetables and sauté a little

  6. Add the stock, or water with bouillons, and bring to a boil

  7. Add the herbs and boil for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, check for doneness of the lentils.

  8. Finish the dish with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

  9. Serve in a bowl and top with a few pieces of the crunchy guanciale.

italian lentil soup recipe

Try this dish with the basics described above and then try some variations to see what works for you.

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