This Colorful, Satisfying Soup Is Perfect for Holiday Get-Togethers

This Colorful, Satisfying Soup Is Perfect for Holiday Get-Togethers
Lentils add a creamy texture and substantial fullness. (Diane Rossen Worthington/TNS)

Finally, it’s hearty soup weather. What could be better for family get-togethers over the holidays than bowls of this soul-satisfying soup? Having written two soup books, I never tire of coming up with interesting combinations.

Lentils add a creamy texture and substantial fullness. Sometimes I’ll throw a handful into a pot of vegetable soup for a textural surprise. I think of this dish, with its vibrant bright orange lentils, green spinach and yellow squash colors, as a soup/stew mashup.

If you’re having a crowd over with various diet restrictions, try making this with and without the slightly smoky turkey kielbasa sausage. You can divide the soup and serve half without sausage for the vegetarians at your table and add sausage to the other half. Adding the za’atar and smoked paprika gives this soup a Middle Eastern flair.

Lentils, also called pulses, are gluten-free, high in protein and fiber, and low in calories. That’s what I call a jackpot of healthy properties. I have tried every color of lentils, but I must say I am partial to the orange variety, sometimes called petite crimson. The bright orange variety has a mild, slightly sweet flavor and cooks up quickly into an appealing purée.

Another plus is that there is no pre-preparation. If you can’t find the orange variety, try the red masoor dal that breaks down into a purée rapidly.

If you like a very smoky flavor, add more smoked paprika and/or chipotle tabasco sauce to taste. This one-pot meal is delicious with a loaf of whole grain bread and olive oil for dipping to enjoy alongside the soup. A glass of Beaujolais or zinfandel would be a lovely accompaniment.

Tasty Tips

If you are doing the vegetarian version, you will need a smokier flavor. Smoked paprika or another chile powder will give you that desired profile. Chipotle tabasco will add not only a rounded smoky flavor, but some hot spiciness.

If you are dividing the soup into vegetarian and sausage-added, only use half of the sausage amount in the soup.

If you can’t find orange lentils, look for brown lentils.

You can substitute red Swiss chard or arugula for the spinach.

For extra richness, drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil on top just before serving.

Smoky Lentil, Squash, and Spinach Soup

Serves 6 to 8
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups (1 pound) orange lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon za’atar, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (a bit more if serving without the sausage), or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1/3 teaspoon dried
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3/4 pound peeled butternut squash, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups shredded fresh spinach
  • 3/4 pound favorite smoked sausage, cut into 1/2-inch slices, optional
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
For Garnish
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • Zest of 1 lemon
In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the onion, and sauté for about 4 minutes. Add the carrot and celery and continue sautéing for about 5 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the tomato paste and mix until it is slightly caramelized, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another minute.

Add the lentils, stock, za’atar, paprika, thyme, salt, pepper, and butternut squash. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are tender, and the squash is tender, stirring occasionally.

When the lentils are softened and falling apart, add the spinach, sausage, and 2 tablespoons parsley and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the sausage is heated through. Taste for seasoning.

To serve, ladle into soup bowls and garnish with the parsley and lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Advance Preparation: The soup can be prepared up to three days ahead until just before adding the spinach, covered, and refrigerated. This soup also freezes well. Be sure to adjust the seasonings and add fresh herbs when you reheat the frozen soup.
Diane Rossen Worthington is an authority on new American cooking. She is the author of 18 cookbooks, including "Seriously Simple Parties," and a James Beard Award-winning radio show host. You can contact her at Copyright 2021 Diane Rossen Worthington. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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