3 sweet pork sausage links, casings removed and meat crumbled
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup dried lentils, sorted and washed (1 cup dried lentils yields 3 to 4 cups cooked)
1/2 cup ditalini
2 cups diced tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Cook the sausage in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until it is no longer pink. Set aside.
2. Pour the chicken broth into a soup pot, add the lentils, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 30 to 35 minutes. (Do not overcook them or they will turn to mush; they should still have a bit of a firm core at this point.)
3. Stir in the ditalini, and 1 teaspoon of salt and continue cooking until the pasta is almost al dente, about 5 minutes depending on the brand. Stir in the sausage and tomatoes. Cover and simmer the soup for 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
A salad is the only accompaniment needed as the soup is quite hearty.
Recipe courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito, Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites, 2010.
Mary Ann Esposito is often asked what is Italian food, and this soup is a good example of what her answer is – simple, in-season ingredients and easy preparation. From her personal kitchen, she shows you how to make this delicious and hearty winter soup, Zuppa di Lenticchie Ditalani e Salsiccia, from her Ciao Italia 5-Ingredient Cookbook. The five main ingredients are chicken stock (homemade or store bought low sodium), ditalini pasta (a small tube shaped pasta typically used in Italian soups), dried lentils (dear to the hearts of Italians and a symbol of good luck), chopped up fresh tomatoes, (but you can use San Marzano in the can as a substitute), and a good Italian sausage (she uses one flavored with fennel).
As described in Mary Ann’s book, lentils are a powerhouse of protein. These tiny dried disk-shaped legumes have been used for centuries throughout the Mediterranean, and are at the heart of many Italian dishes, especially salads, soups, and casseroles. There are many varieties ranging in color from brown, to black, green, reddish-brown, and yellow. It is not necessary to soak lentils before cooking, but they should be sorted and washed to remove any bits of stone or other debris.
As the creator and host of the nationally televised PBS series, Ciao Italia with Mary Ann Esposito™, Mary Ann has brought those values to millions of Americans. This year, the series celebrates its milestone 21st season, making it the longest running cooking series in television history. You can view Mary Ann's shows, get recipes and buy her books at her web site - www.ciaoitalia.com.