Tomato Lentil Soup with Orzo

Here's another absolutely awesome soup that's easy to put together, makes a ginormous pot of leftovers, and at a per-serving cost of only 60-70c, it might just be one of the most laughably cheap recipes in all of Casual Kitchen's history.

Oh, and it's one more nail in the coffin of the ridiculous notion that healthy food has to be expensive.

This is yet another triumphant recipe that I've adapted from Jay Solomon's Vegetarian Soup Cuisine, a book that we use so heavily here that, sadly, it's practically falling apart. I guess that's the definition of a truly good cookbook, isn't it? I hope you enjoy this healthy and hearty recipe as much as we do.

Tomato Lentil Soup with Orzo
(modified from Jay Solomon's Vegetarian Soup Cuisine)

1 cup lentils
10-12 cups water

3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, chopped coarsely
4-6 celery stalks, chopped coarsely
6 cloves garlic, pressed or chopped
2 Tablespoons oregano
4 teaspoons dried basil
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 teaspoon salt (optional)

4 cups potatoes, unpeeled and cubed coarsely
2 15-ounce cans stewed tomatoes
2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
1/2 cup orzo pasta
1/2 pound green beans, fresh or frozen

1) In a medium-sized pot, combine lentils and water, bring to a boil, then simmer for 40 minutes until cooked. Drain, but reserve 8 cups of the water (if there's less than 8 cups, don't worry about it, you can just add some additional plain water to the soup)

2) While the lentils are cooking, in a separate pot (you'll most likely need to use the largest pot in your kitchen), saute the onions, celery, garlic in the oil, over high heat, for about 3-4 minutes. Then reduce heat, add the spices, and saute for another 5 minutes, until the vegetables are beginning to soften, brown and stick to the bottom of the pan.

3) Then add 2 cups of the reserved lentil water. Deglaze the bottom of the pot. Then add the drained lentils, reserved lentil water/added water, and also add the stewed tomatoes, tomato paste and potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.

4) Add the orzo and green beans and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente.

Serves 12-14. Feel free to cut this recipe in half if you don't want to be buried in soup.

A few recipe notes:
1) A minor caution with this soup: there's a bit of "stick to the bottom" risk you should be aware of--specifically, the orzo has a knack for sinking straight to the bottom of the pot and gluing itself there. Just be forewarned, and when you get to step #4 of this recipe, be sure to give everything a good stir every minute or two until the orzo is done. Don't say I didn't warn you.

2) This soup makes a lot. Let me repeat: this soup makes a lot. Seriously, you will need your very largest pot to make this recipe. And if you happen to be one of those odd readers who, bizarrely, doesn't enjoy the sweet rewards of days and days of laughably easy-to-reheat leftovers, feel free to cut this recipe in half.

3) Also, you may find this soup thickens quite a bit after it cools off in your fridge. Feel free to add extra water before reheating to bring it to the consistency you like.

4) Did anybody notice that this soup is vegetarian? And yet it's so hearty and filling that even the most militant carnivores probably won't even notice. To me that's the definition of good vegetarian cuisine. It's so good, you don't miss the meat.

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Kitzzy said...

This sounds amazing, I'm not even a soup person but ear it on occasion and in a huge fan of lentils and orzo. I'll be making this very soon!

A few questions thou:

1) wont the lentils get really mushy if I cook then all the way and then simmer it some more in the soup? I like my my lentils with a little bite

2) I'd like to use fresh tomatoes, would that affect the flavor/consistency? Also, can I sub the tomato paste for sauce or just puréed fresh tomatoes? how do you recommend I sub then?

3) I'm guessing it's ok to use vegetable stock instead of water to cook both the lentils and the soup?


Matt @ SpoonMatters said...

Man, that looks good. I'm going to give it a go this weekend.

What kind of lentils did you use? I have red, green & brown lentils, though I haven't had much luck in cooking them so far. I usually just turn them to mush. Edible, but not pretty.

Daniel said...

Okay, some quick answers:

Kitzzy: If you follow the recipe as stated, you'll create a soup with a delicious, stew-like consistency. The well-cooked texture of the lentils is a part of that. Try it, you'll see what I mean. But of course, you can cook the lentils for less time (say 20-25 minutes rather than the stated 40 minutes in step 1) if you'd like to.

As for using fresh tomatoes, go right ahead.

Regarding veggie stock, yes, you can use it if you like, but it isn't necessary.


Daniel said...

Matt: I just used plain brown lentils, the cheapest kind. You can find them in those one-pound generic store-brand bags in any grocery store.

I wouldn't recommend red lentils, they'd just totally disintegrate in this stew.


Kitzzy said...

I just noticed that the instructions do not say to add the lentils to the soup when it's simmering or did I miss it? Do I cook them separately and just mix them in when the rest of the soup is done or do I add it when adding the lentil water/tomatoes, etc?

I'll give it a try as stated, because I do like the idea of a stew rather than watery soup.

Daniel said...

Good catch: Step three should read:

Then add 2 cups of the reserved lentil water. Deglaze the bottom of the pot. Then add the drained lentils, reserved lentil water/added water, and also add the stewed tomatoes, tomato paste and potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.

I've fixed the post. Thanks.


Sally said...

I have a recipe that's very similar to this, just no potatoes and shell macaroni instead of orzo. It also makes a huge amount of soup, but I always cut it in half. It's also not so "complicated" to cook -- everything is done in one pot. I use brown or green lentils -- whichever I have on hand.

Kitzzy, vegetable stock isn't necessary. With all the vegetables and herbs in this recipe, it's going to have a flavorful broth.

Marcia said...

This looks totally awesome. I have that book (on your recommendation) and I can't believe I haven't tried it yet.

chacha1 said...

Sounds delicious, aside from the lentils. I may try some other protein-delivery system. :-)

Daniel said...

Chacha1: Yeah, if you don't like lentils, you're pretty much toast with this soup. Sorry. ;)