The pancetta, pecorino and thyme will infuse your soup with a great depth of flavour, while the lentils and pasta will ensure no-one walks away hungry!
This is a great throw-together dish for when your cupboards and fridge are erring on the empty side.
- 60 ml (¼ cup) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 3 golden shallots or 1 medium brown onion, roughly chopped
- 1 celery stick, thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
- 2 cm thick slice of pancetta or speck, cut into cubes
- 200 g (1 cup) puy lentils, rinsed under cold water
- 1 piece pecorino or parmigiano rind
- 1–2 sprigs thyme, plus extra leaves to garnish
- 3 cups (750 ml) vegetable or chicken stock, plus extra if needed salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ cup (170 g) broken pasta (or use a small pasta such as ditalini or risoni)
- 500–750 ml (2–3 cups) boiling water
- hot chillies, to serve (optional)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Heat the olive oil in a medium heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and cook the shallot or onion, celery and carrot for 3–4 minutes or until softened but not coloured. Stir in the pancetta or speck and cook for 2–3 minutes on medium heat, then add the lentils, cheese rind, thyme, stock and a pinch of salt and simmer over low–medium heat for 25–30 minutes or until the lentils are almost cooked through.
Add the pasta and enough boiling water to cover the pasta and lentils and cook for 5–6 minutes or until the pasta is al dente and the lentils are cooked through. You will notice that the natural starch in the pasta acts as a thickener – add a little more water or stock if you prefer a more liquid soup. Remove the cheese rind, then season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into bowls and finish with a scattering of thyme leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with hot chillies if you fancy the Nonno Domenico experience!
• You can make the lentil soup the day before you need it. The next day add 1 cup (250 ml) water and a pinch of salt, then bring it to the boil and cook the baby pasta as instructed in the recipe.
Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by O Tama Carey. Creative concept by Belinda So.