nona’s red lentil (or split pea) soup

Now that it’s finally getting chilly in the evenings, I can start making all my soups! This recipe is one my Sicilian grandmother made, and is not only comforting but also healthy, vegan, simple, and inexpensive. Assuming you have parsley, olive oil, salt, water, and a large pot already on hand, the other three ingredients, altogether, should cost you less than $3, and the recipe makes about 4 – 6 qts.


Another great thing about this recipe is that you can use different legumes depending on your preference. My mother and sister prefer using brown lentils, and they throw in some spinach while it’s cooking. Personally, green split peas are my favorite, but I’ve used red lentils this time for a couple reasons. Namely: they taste similar to green split peas, in this recipe ; they are smaller than peas and brown lentils, so they cook faster ; they make the soup more orange colored, which I like for autumn.

  • 1 lb red lentils (or split peas, brown lentils, etc.)
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 tsp salt
  • some parsley (dried is fine)
  • small amount olive oil (about 1 – 2 Tbsp)
  • 8 – 10 c. water

Clean lentils and rinse 2 – 3 times (you can use a cheesecloth like you might for quinoa; I just rinse them in a bowl and take my chances at not accidentally pouring them all out with the water). Soak in bowl of water (doesn’t have to be for a long time, especially with red lentils).

Fry onion and parsley in oil in a 6 qt pot, about 10 minutes.  Add tomato sauce to pot and let boil.  Add water and salt. Cover, boil.  Drain lentils and add to pot (I drop them in using a large slotted spoon). Cover, bring to boil.  Lower heat to medium. Uncover and cook on low boil for an hour to an hour and a quarter, stirring occasionally.



My mother likes to put the soup in the blender to make it super smooth before eating, but I prefer it a bit lumpy. I ate mine with a wheat pita, but I think it would be best with a big chunk of the darkest pumpernickel you can find – Hallowe’en colors!


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