There are several small mountain towns in Abruzzo where lentils are a main staple and many families grow them in the garden. Lentils are harvested by hand, impurities are picked out by hand, and then they are stored in cloth sacks. Santo Stefano di Sessanio is famous for its high-quality lentils. Castelli, also in the province of L’Aquila, boasts the original recipe for this autumn dish. On a chilly night, when roasting chestnuts on the fire, roast a few extras and save them for this soup.
Ingredients for 4
- 200g dried brown lentils
- 50g lard or bacon fat
- 5 tbsp olive oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 15 roasted chestnuts
- 1 tsp chopped marjoram
- 8 thick lices crunchy bread
- 250 ml tomato sauce
- 80 ml water
- Salt and pepper
Soak lentils in abundant water overnight. Discard those that rise to the top. Drain and cook in plenty of boiling water with the bay leaf (about 30 minutes).
Meanwhile, if your chestnuts have not been previously roasted, make a cut in the rounded part of the outer skin (careful not to cut yourself), spread them in a baking tray and bake in a preheated oven (175°C/Gas mark 4) for about 30 minutes or until cooked.
Peel off the outer and inner skins, break the chestnuts into small pieces and set aside. Chop and sauté the chestnuts with the lard/bacon fat in the olive oil with the herbs. When the lard turns golden in colour, add the tomato sauce and water. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
When the lentils are cooked, save about 1 litre of the cooking liquid and drain the rest off. Add lentils and the 1 litre of liquid to the sauce. Stir and cook over moderate heat for about 10 minutes. While this is simmering, fry the slices of bread in olive oil until golden and toasty.
Arrange two slices of the fried bread on the bottom of each soup dish and ladle the lentils onto the bread and serve immediately.