Such a creamy soup with chestnuts and lentils will not only warm your stomach and your soul. In Italy we also firmly believe that it brings us luck. Especially if it's made with the right lentilsJump to Recipe
The meat of the poor
The recipe for this chestnut and lentil soup originates from the province of Chieti in Abruzzo. However, similar soups have a tradition in the mountainous regions as far down as Basilicata. Here in the Apennines, many lentils are cultivated. Some varieties even at over 1,500 m above sea level. Others thrive well on the volcanic islands, for example on the Sicilian coast. The small pulses are low in fat as well as being rich in protein, phosphorus, iron and vitamin B. And they are not expensive. No wonder they were called "the meat of the poor" for such a long time.
Lentils are preferably grown organically in Italy. Until a few decades ago, they were still harvested traditionally. Donkeys pulled coarse stones over the plants to loosen the fruit from the pods. The wind and children did the rest. Nowadays a threshing machine is used. Most Italian lentil varieties are small and this means that you only have to soak them for a short time or not at all. Sicilian lentils from Leonforte are famous: black and rich in minerals like the volcanic soil on which they grow. Perhaps the most exclusive and most tender types come from the area around Norcia in Umbria.
The small lucky charm
We Italians simply love lentils because they are tasty and can be used in so many ways in the kitchen. And because we associate them with wealth, health and happiness. This may explain why we serve green lentils from Altamura in Apulia on New Year's Eve. It is even said that the lentils from Onano in Lazio help people to cope with their worries: when Pope Pius IX refused to sleep or eat in 1870 because the troops of the young Kingdom of Italy finally conquered and dissolved the Papal States, apparently some lentil soup was the only thing that could console him.
Chestnut and lentil soup
- 200 g lentils, Italian lentils are prefered
- 2 bay leaves
- olive oil, extra virgin
- 200 g chestnuts, cooked
- 200 g potatoes
- 1 pinch marjoram
- ½ chili pepper
- 2 tablespoon tomatoes, strained
- 4 slices white bread
- Parmesan, or Pecorino if wished
- Cook the lentils with the bay leaves until soft according to the instructions on the package. This usually takes about 20 minutes for Italian lentils. I would personally recommend a variety that does not need to be soaked. Good to know: for soups, lentils should be salted after cooking, otherwise they tend to stay firm to the bite.
- Heat the olive oil in a pot and flavour with the chilli pepper. Remove the chilli pepper. Add the marjoram and gradually add the drained lentils, half the chestnuts and the diced potatoes. Fry everything and season with salt and pepper. Add the strained tomatoes and a glass of hot water so that the vegetables and lentils are covered with liquid.
- Let the soup simmer until the potatoes are soft. If you want to, you can puree the soup and possibly add a little more water. Sprinkle the slices of bread with olive oil, season with a pinch of salt and fry on both sides in a pan.
- Decorate the chestnut and lentil soup with grated Pecorino (if you don't go vegan), fresh parsley and the remaining chopped chestnuts. Serve hot with the bread slices.
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