This lentil soup is hearty and comforting and great for those nights when you need something to warm your tummy. It's super easy to make and it has a great balance of veggies and the delicious taste you can only get from sausage. My kids, like most, are not big veggie eaters. But they eat this soup! They are suckers for anything with sausage in it. When I serve it to the kids I put a big dollop of sour cream on top - they seem to like it better with the creaminess, and it's a great way to cool it off quickly. One of my kids actually loves this so much that she requested the leftovers for breakfast the next day, and for snack when she got home from school.
The beauty of this type of recipe is in its flexibility. You can make this however you want, so please use this recipe as a guideline, not as a strict rule. If you like more or less or something, go for it. Change the type of sausage (or use meatballs or chicken), try different veggies, and different spices. That's the great thing about soup - you can personalize it and never make it the same twice!
- 1 package of sausage - usually a little over a pound.
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 stalk of celery
- 2 cloves of garlic (or 2 teaspoons crushed)
- 3 quarts chicken broth
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups dry lentils
- 1 head of cauliflower
- 1 bunch of kale, or other greens.
- salt & pepper to taste
- Other herbs or seasoning to taste.
This works with basically any kind of sausage you like. I usually use brats or Italian sausage because I like the flavor. But if you want a little spice you could use a spicy sausage. Or if you want to keep it a little lighter you could use a chicken sausage.
You can also use any kind of lentils. Different kinds will have different textures when cooked, and take different cooking times, so just experiment and use ones you like. Red and orange lentils cook faster and have a softer texture when cooked. Green and black ones tend to hold their shape better. The one pictured was a very generic package of green lentils, I often have those on hand because they are usually the cheapest.
If you have homemade broth (here's how I make it), then that will kick this up into the ultra amazing category - it just adds so much flavor. But this is still great with store bought broth, and obviously that makes it very easy.
You could totally leave out the tomatoes if you're not a tomato person. I like to add them because I think the slight acidity goes well with the lentils and sausage. It's not enough that it seems like a very tomato-ey soup, but it's just enough to add a depth of flavor.
I like to hold off on the salt until I've got it all put together and simmering, because depending on the type of sausage and broth you use, it salt level is really going to vary. Some are very salty, some are not. Get it all assembled and then give the broth a taste, and then season as you think it needs. And here's where you can get creative: add other spices to give it a totally different flavor. If you want an Indian type flavor, add some curry powder. Or add cumin and extra garlic. Or for a more Italian flavor add some basil and oregano, or just an Italian seasoning blend. Or add a little cumin and chili powder for more of a southwest flavor. The possibilities are endless. Or keep it simple with just salt and pepper and you will still love it!
- If you are starting with uncooked sausage, squeeze them out of the casings into little lumps, the size of small meatballs. Heat a heavy bottom pot (or the insert for your stove-top slow cooker), and add sausage balls. You don't need oil because the sausage is going to release plenty of fat. Brown all over.
- Chop onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and add to the pot with the browned sausage. Saute until onions are getting soft.
- Add chicken broth and can of tomatoes (with juice!). Bring to a simmer, and then add dry lentils.
- Chop cauliflower and greens and add to the pot.
- Cover and simmer for at least an hour.
I like to make this in my slow cooker. I have a slow cooker with a metal insert, so I can do all the browning and sauteing on the stove right in the slow cooker pot, and then move it to the cooker to simmer. (This is the slow cooker I have, and I love it!) I will throw this together in the afternoon, and then let it simmer on low for 3 hours or so while I go to the after school run around, and we come home to dinner ready to eat. But you can just as easily do this all on the stove.
If you want to make this really fast, use pre-cooked lentils and cooked sausage. You can get a package of pre-cooked lentils at Trader Joes or most grocery stores. Use the whole package. Saute all your veggies, cut your sausage into chunks, and then add all the other ingredients. Cut the broth to just 1 1/2 or 2 quarts, depending on how brothy you like it. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, just until the veggies are cooked to your liking. It's an easy way to make a super quick weeknight meal.