This cozy Italian-inspired lentil soup recipe is easy to make, full of feel-good ingredients, and always so flavorful and comforting.
This Italian lentil soup is one of those back-pocket recipes I find myself defaulting to again and again because it calls for super-basic ingredients that we almost always have on hand. And on chilly nights when we find ourselves craving some feel-good vegetarian comfort food, it’s one of those simple recipes that always always hits the spot. ♡
It’s made with a basic mix of veggies and protein-rich lentils, all simmered together in a tomato-herb broth with a slight kick. Then once the lentils are cooked and tender, I always stir in a few handfuls of kale (or whatever greens happen to be hanging out in the crisper drawer) and some extra fresh basil (if you happen to have some on hand), and then finish off each serving bowl with a generous sprinkling of freshly-grated Parmesan and a few twists of black pepper. It’s one of those simple soups that somehow always tastes even better than we remember and — bonus — also makes for amazing leftovers the next day.
So round up those leftover lentils that have been sitting in the back of your pantry and let’s cook up a big pot of lentil soup together!
Italian Lentil Soup Ingredients
Before we get to the full lentil soup recipe below, here are a few quick notes about the ingredients you will need:
Mirepoix: We’ll use the classic trio of onion, carrots and celery as the base for this soup, sautéed in olive oil to soften.
Garlic: Lots of fresh garlic, either pressed or minced, to season the broth.
Broth: I usually make this soup with vegetable broth, to keep it vegetarian. But chicken or beef stock would work well here too.
Lentils: I recommend basic brown or green lentils for this soup, which cook up in around 30 minutes. But other varieties of lentils (red, French or black) could also work in this soup, if you adjust the cooking time as needed.
Diced tomatoes: I recommend fire-roasted diced tomatoes to add an extra layer of roasted flavor to the soup, but basic diced tomatoes will work just fine too.
Seasoning: This recipe uses a simple pantry mix of bay leaves, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, fine sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper. But if you happen to have fresh Italian herbs on hand, feel free to add them to taste in place of the Italian seasoning.
Greens: Chopped fresh kale, collard greens or baby spinach are all great options for the greens here.
Basil: I like adding a generous amount of fresh basil to the soup, plus adding some as garnish to each of the serving bowls.
Parmesan: Finally, I highly recommend serving each bowl with a generous amount of freshly-grated Parmesan on top. And if you happen to have a leftover Parmesan rind on hand, be sure to add it to the broth as it cooks too for an extra flavor.
Here are some other variations you’re welcome to try with this lentil soup recipe:
Add a protein: Add Italian sausage, ground beef, or shredded chicken.
Add extra veggies: Add bell pepper, fennel, green beans, potato, sweet potato, zucchini or other soup-friendly veggies.
Add pasta: Add 1 cup ditalini (or another small pasta shape), along with an extra 2 cups of broth, about 10 minutes before the lentils have finished cooking. You’ll likely need to adjust the amount of seasonings to compensate for the extra broth too.
Make it spicier/milder: Use more or less of the crushed red pepper flakes, to taste.
Make it vegan: Just omit the Parmesan to make this vegan lentil soup. (You’re welcome to add some plant-based Parmesan or a sprinkling of nutritional yeast, if you’d like.)
More Lentil Soup Recipes
Looking for more lentil soup recipes to love? Here are a few of my faves…
This hearty Italian Lentil Soup recipe is easy to make, naturally gluten-free, and full of the best Italian flavors!
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 1/4 cups green or brown lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 (28-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups chopped kale or collard greens
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, plus extra for topping
fine sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper
freshly-grated Parmesan cheese, for topping
Sauté veggies. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, and sauté for 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft and translucent. Add garlic and sauté for an additional 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the broth, lentils and seasonings. Add the stock, lentils, tomatoes, bay leaves, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper flakes, and stir to combine. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches a simmer.
Simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the lentils are tender and cooked through, stirring occasionally.
Add the greens and season. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Stir in the kale and basil until combined. Taste and season with salt, black pepper, and/or extra Italian seasoning as needed.
Serve. Serve warm, garnished with lots of Parmesan cheese and extra basil. Enjoy!