Serves 6 to 8. Recipe is from “Cooking at Home: More Than 1,000 Classic and Modern Recipes for Every Meal of the Day” Chuck Williams 100th Birthday Limited Edition by Chuck Williams. Reprinted with permission from Weldon Owen. This is a personal recipe of Chuck Williams, who says any type of lentils may be used.
2 cups (14 ounces) dried lentils
Salt and ground pepper
1 yellow onion stuck with 2 whole cloves, plus 2 yellow onions, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds ripe plum (Roma) tomatoes, seeded and chopped
4 cups chicken stock, or as needed
Chopped fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
1. Sort through the lentils, discarding any discolored ones or impurities. Rinse, drain and place in a large saucepan with 6 cups water. Place over medium-high heat and add 2 teaspoons salt, the clove-studded onion, bay leaf, and oregano. Bring just to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially and simmer until the lentils are just tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and discard the onion and cloves, bay leaf, and the oregano sprigs. Set the lentils aside.
2. In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onions and sauté gently, stirring, until translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook gently, uncovered, until the tomatoes break down and the juices are released, 10-15 minutes longer.
3. Stir in the 4 cups stock and the reserved lentils. Cover partially, and simmer gently over medium-low heat until the flavors are well blended, 10-15 minutes longer. Add more stock or water if the soup seems too thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
4. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, sprinkle with parsley, and serve right away.
Testing note: The recipe says it serves 4 to 6, but that would be for very hearty eaters. Six to eight generous servings is more reasonable, especially if it is being served with a salad and bread. Also, I recommend using a large Dutch oven or stock pot.