I am in a Worship class at LSTC in Chicago. For our retreat, we, as a group, engaged and conducted the Triduum services (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil of Easter) all in one November Saturday. For our supper, we were each asked to contribute a simple dish. I was a little apprehensive at first. The idea of making soup first thing Saturday morning to take to nine hours of church seemed to be too much. Really, though, the retreat turned out to be a wonderful, transformational experience. I would even call it a "heart-warming" John Wesley-esque conversion experience. So, what does one make for Easter in November? (My teacher reminded us that having Easter in the autumnal season is really no big deal; Christians in the Southern Hemisphere do it every year!) This stomach-warming dish is what I brought. It seemed to go over well, or else my classmates are just too friendly. Regardless, this is a savory, hearty and very healthy stew. It is chock full of fiber from the vegetables and lentils. It is also impossible to mess up. Give it a try.
1/2 cup olive oil, filtered or unfiltered
2-3 leeks or 1-2 large onions, halved and sliced thin
1 pound carrots or baby carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4" slices
1/2 pound celery, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups (1 bag) lentils
12 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
4 Tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups homemade or low-salt vegetable, beef, chicken or veal broth
4 cups water, possibly more, if needed
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 pound ditalini
First, prep all your vegetables according to the list above.
Heat a huge pot over high heat. Once hot, add the olive oil. Then add the leeks, carrots and celery. Cook for 5-10 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften/sweat, but don't brown them. Add the garlic, stir and cook another 1-2 minutes. Never burn garlic.
Stir in the lentils and tomatoes, hand crushing as you add them. Stir in the tomato paste, broth, water, salt and pepper. Cook at a steady simmer for 45 minutes to one hour.
In the meantime, cook the ditalini in well salted water (1+ Tbsp kosher salt per gallon of water) to al dente. Drain and set aside.
Taste the lentils to see that they are tender. When the lentils are finished, the broth will thicken some and form a nice sauce.
Add the pasta to the lentils and stir to distribute evenly.
Serve with plenty of fresh Parmesan cheese for topping and a warm, crusty baguette.
Serves: one army with leftovers.