Italian Lentil Soup is something I grew up eating several times per month. This recipe is inspired by my mother’s version, and has been revived as my go to lentil dish.
This lentil soup gets rich flavor from beef broth, and added thickness and heartiness from elbow macaroni, which is cooked right in the broth.
Why use beef broth?
My mom always used a beef bouillon cube to make lentil soup, and I absolutely loved it. I think that beefy flavor pairs so well with the earthy lentils.
Rather than using a bouillon cube, I use stock, preferably a lighter colored beef bone broth. I’ve also made lentil soup with chicken or vegetable broth, so use whatever you prefer!
Why cook the pasta straight in the soup?
When you cook the pasta straight in the broth, the starch from the pasta is released into the soup and helps thicken it, giving it a great texture and mouth feel. You can always add more broth if it becomes too thick.
When you cook the pasta separately and then stir it into the soup, the soup stays a little thinner. Both methods are acceptable, so choose your favorite way.
Is all that oil necessary?
I use a decent amount of oil in this recipe (1/4 cup), because it provides flavor and richness to this otherwise fat free dish. Plus, it’s a healthy fat.
There’s not a lot going on in this soup. No meat. No cream. The oil really gives it a boost, which is why I like to drizzle more on top as well. Make sure you use good quality extra virgin olive oil, as the flavor will be noticeable.
Make this Italian Lentil Soup Your Own:
- Sub out chicken or vegetable stock.
- Use mature fresh spinach or frozen spinach instead of baby spinach. See cook times in notes section of recipe.
- Try kale, swiss chard or mustard greens instead of spinach. Put these greens in at the same time as the pasta to allow for additional cook time.
- Add a tomato product. Add a couple tablespoons of tomato paste or about a cup of canned whole, crushed, chopped or puree tomatoes. You can even add fresh, chopped tomatoes. If using a tomato product, sauté for several minutes after cooking garlic before adding the stock.
- Add a couple sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary. Make sure to remove stems from soup before serving.
How to Make Gluten Free or Vegan Lentil Soup
For a gluten free version, simply sub out pasta and bread for a gluten free variety. You can also omit either or both of these ingredients.
For a vegan Italian lentil soup, use vegetable broth and omit the cheese or sprinkle with nutritional yeast instead.
More cozy soups and bean recipes:
- Thai Red Curry Lentil Soup
- Chicken and Dumpling Soup
- Creamy Butternut Squash Soup
- Curried Coconut Carrot Soup
- Crispy Baked Falafel with Tahini Yogurt Sauce
- Herbed Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Tahini Yogurt
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This is my family recipe for Italian Lentil soup. Make sure to top with plenty of parmesan cheese!
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- ½ medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
- 3 medium carrots, sliced into ½ inch thick pieces
- 1 stalk celery, sliced into ½ inch thick pieces
- 1 cup dried brown lentils
- 1 clove garlic, crushed in garlic press
- 4–6 cups beef broth* (I prefer a light colored beef bone broth)
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cups fresh baby spinach*
- 2/3 cup dry elbow pasta*
- Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
- Freshly grated parmigiano reggiano (parmesan) cheese, for serving*
- Crusty bread, warmed in oven, for serving
- Sauté aromatics and lentils: Heat a Dutch oven or large soup pot over medium heat. Add oil, onions, carrots and celery. Season with salt. Sauté 6-8 minutes or until vegetables start to soften and onions become translucent. Add lentils and garlic, cook about 30-60 seconds, making sure to avoid browning.
- Add broth and simmer: Add 4 cups of broth and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and partially cover. Simmer about 15 minutes or until lentils are tender.
- Add pasta: Add pasta along with 1 more cup of broth. Simmer rapidly for about 4-6 minutes, or until pasta is cooked through. Stir in spinach and cook 15 seconds or until spinach is wilted. Add additional broth, if desired. Taste for salt. Discard bay leaf.
- Serve: Ladle soup into serving dishes. Top with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of cheese and fresh cracked pepper. Serve with bread, if desired. Enjoy.
Substitute chicken broth or vegetable broth for the beef broth, if desired.
If using mature spinach instead of baby, chop into smaller pieces and add it to soup at the same time as the pasta so it has more time to cook through. If using frozen spinach, defrost and add 1-2 minutes before pasta is cooked through.
For a gluten free version, use gluten free pasta and bread, or omit both.
For a vegan version, use vegetable broth instead of beef, and nutritional yeast instead of parmesan.
Store in the fridge for up to a week, or freeze for up to 3 months before adding the pasta.
- Category: Soup
- Method: Boil, simmer
- Cuisine: Italian
- Serving Size: 1/4 of recipe
- Calories: 400
- Sugar: 6g
- Sodium: 980mg
- Fat: 16g
- Saturated Fat: 2g
- Unsaturated Fat: 14g
- Trans Fat: 0g
- Carbohydrates: 51g
- Fiber: 8g
- Protein: 17g
- Cholesterol: 5mg
Keywords: Italian lentil soup, lentil soup, healthy lentil soup, lentil soup with pasta