Preparation time: 30 min
Cooking time: 1 hour
500 g lentils
25 - 30 chestnuts
Ground black pepper
5 bay leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
125 g streaky bacon, chopped
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
3 tablespoons dried basil (or chopped fresh basil)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Soak the lentils in enough water to cover them for 12 hours. Drain. Prepare the chestnuts to the point of readiness for cooking (soak if dried, roast and peel if fresh) Boil until soft (about 20 minutes) and crush into small chunky pieces.
Place the lentils in a medium pot and fill it with cold water to about 4 times the volume of the lentils. Add 1 teaspoon pepper and the bay leaves. Cover and bring to boil then simmer until the lentils are tender. Turn off heat and remove the bay leaves. Keep the pot covered.
Heat a 1/3 of the oil in a small pan and saute the meat. Add marjoram, basil, chestnuts and the tomato paste dissolved in 1/2 a cup of the lentil water. Stir well and cook until the sauce is thick.
Reheat the lentils, add the sauce and cook over a moderate heat for 1 hour.
The secret of many Italian soups is in the serving: in this case pour the soup over a bed of toasted bread in individual bowls. Pour 1 tablespoon of oil into each serving and offer grated fresh Parmesan cheese for garnish.
Lentils are quite dry in texture and the addition of extra virgin olive oil to the soup moistened and heightens the flavour.
Just the soup for cold wet nights when a substantial main course is absent.