Riso e Lenticchie (Rice and Lentil Soup) is a classic dish of the Italian cuisine. Rustic, simple and packed with nutrients, it is a healthy comfort food that warms up your body and soul. Naturally vegan and gluten-free, Rice and Lentil Soup is perfect for winter but appreciated all year long.
Song of the day: Guardian - Alanis Morrisette
Riso e Lenticchie (Rice and Lentil Soup) is one of those dishes that has accompanied me through the years. However it is made by different members of my big Italian family oftentimes, with recipes changing from house to house. It is a wholesome, fast and simple soup but rich in substance. Pure comfort, it warms up your body and soul.
When people compare my cooking and baking to Grandma's kitchen, I bow humbly, smile blushing, and consider it the best compliment ever. It is an achievement for me, a goal, to cook like a grandma. To bring comfort, love, and warmth with my 'homey' food.
"My grandma is the best cook ever"
You hear that a lot. Almost all the grandmas in the world seem to possess the "cooking gene". As a matter of fact, most kids love grandma's food, they get pampered, spoiled and given all the foods they like.
I was certainly spoiled and given good food. I was taught to like all the foods, especially the healthy ones, but never forced to eat anything I disliked. And when I showed a certain fondness for a particular dish, my nonna made sure to make it for me. All. The. Time. The vegetables I liked best: sauteed greens, peas, roasted potatoes. The tomato sauces I loved the most, like the simple pomodoro e basilico with an egg cooked inside the sauce, or the vegetarian ragù with peas. The fresh pasta she made so well, especially her incredible fettuccine, and the pillowy gnocchi, another success story. Her wonderful soups: pasta e fagioli, pasta e ceci, pasta e patate, riso e lenticchie.
My family has always taken the longer route when cooking legumes. As a result, they start from dried organic pulses, soak them for a few hours or overnight, then cook them on the stove with some herbs before utilizing them in their dishes. Consequently, I guess their model makes me reach for the dried legumes when I buy them, instead of the canned ones (however I do not disdain the good organic legumes in a glass jar).
Riso e Lenticchie (Rice and Lentil Soup)
Rice and Lentil Soup is a healthy and nutritionally complete dish that combines cereals and legumes with taste and lightness. It is a balanced meal, that can be made vegan, like the one I made here, or vegetarian, by the ones who like to top it with a sprinkle of Parmigiano, or "meaty", for the ones that like to add pancetta or use chicken stock.
The right consistency of this soup is quite soft, not dry like a risotto. It is, however, possible to adjust it to your taste by adding more or less liquid.
Many versions of Rice and Lentils
To tell the truth, in Italy there are as many versions of Riso e Lenticchie (Rice and Lentil Soup) as there are cooks. More or less brothy, with more or less tomato sauce, with different herbs, the rice and lentils cooked together or separately.
My aunt, for example, cooks the rice and lentils separately. She dresses the rice with burro e Parmigiano (butter and Parmigiano), then places it as a side to the stewed lentils.
My dad's version of Riso e Lenticchie
One Saturday late morning, I joined my dad in the kitchen to make Riso e Lenticchie. My mom had soaked the lentils in the morning, then cooked them with a clove of garlic and a rosemary sprig that she picked from a fresh plant on their terrace.
Meanwhile, my dad was making a little sugo, tomato sauce, with the mirepoix of carrots, onion, celery, and a pinch of peperoncino. To that sauce, he then added the precooked lentils and half of the cooking water.
He cooked the rice separately, but instead of cooking it all the way through, he only cooked it for half the time and then added it to the sauce and lentils. At this point, the rice and lentils cooked together, they had time to get acquainted and bond, resulting in a thick, delicious soup.
Time to eat!
The living room table nicely set, the TV blasting in the background of a quiet Saturday lunch, my dad brought Riso e Lenticchie (Rice and Lentil Soup) to the table and scooped the soup in the bowls, a nice fragrance filling the air. The first spoonful revealed both rice and lentils with that 'al dente' texture we like so much, succulent chunks of carrots mingled in, and a tasty broth with just a hint of spice. So comforting and delicious!
Bring some healthy and nutritious comfort food to your table. Make Riso e Lenticchie, Rice and Lentil Soup Italian-style. Spoonful after spoonful you will feel warmth from the inside out.
Song of the day: Guardian - Alanis MorrisettePrint