Little known fact about me: I used to work at Carrabba’s Italian Grill. I LOVED IT. Actually, I loved pretty much everything about being a waitress – talking to people, staying organized, smelling like fried food – although I didn’t love drunk people or bad tippers. Obviously.
Anyway, Carrabba’s served (and still serves) this absurdly good lentil and sausage soup. It’s not something I would have given much of a second glance before my tenure there but when I started it was company policy that I had to try Everything On The Menu! It was like Christmas, you guys. Did you know Carrabba’s restaurants don’t have microwaves? I myself witnessed many an early morning with a kitchen full of tiny Latino women making everything from scratch. It’s the way casual full-service restaurants should be, if you ask me.
Off my soapbox. Lentil and Sage Sausage Soup came about when I had a leftover roll of frozen sage sausage that was intended for Thanksgiving. It ended up in this soup instead and man did the flavors really work. Happy accidents. And the best thing is that this soup’s pretty good for you, too, which was plus when I ate it after my waitressing shifts. My body thanked me since I was in college and mostly subsisted on this stuff, half orders of fried calamari (“all rings, no spiders”) and Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
Those were the days.
LENTIL AND SAGE SAUSAGE SOUP
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped very small
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, chopped to a small dice
2 celery stalks, chopped to a small dice
1 small can tomato sauce
1 (16oz.) bag lentils, rinsed
5 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
1 lb. sage sausage (I use Jimmy Dean)
2 stalks thyme
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. oregano
***optional: 2 tbsp. butter
1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onions, celery, and carrots, season well with salt and pepper, and cook about 5 minutes, or until the onions turn translucent and begin to brown. Add in the sage sausage and use a wooden spoon to break it up into small chunks while it cooks. Brown the sausage, stirring frequently, until cooked through then add the garlic and cook about 1 minute more.
2. Rinse the lentils in a mesh sieve and give them a once-over to make sure there are no pebbles. Add the lentils to the Dutch oven and stir together with the other ingredients. Pour over the chicken stock and water and add the herbs and red pepper flakes (use more if you like spice!) Season again with salt and pepper and bring the soup to a boil.
3. Once boiling, turn the soup down to medium and simmer, partially covered, for about 30-40 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the lentils are soft to the bite like cooked beans. If you wish to add the butter, stir it in after you remove the soup from the heat. Let the pot sit for a few minutes before serving as the soup will thicken further.
I like to serve this with good crusty bread. You can make croutons, too, by cutting bread into cubes and tossing with a small bit of olive oil then baking at 475 degrees for about 5 minutes. And don’t forget to pick that thyme stem out before you serve the soup. Stems are less than tasty.