I know that I've talked about my love of Carrabba's - a small Italian restaurant chain that my family and I love going to when we visit my parental units in Fort Myers, Florida. It has a wonderfully cozy feel to it even though it's always busy. Great service and even better food is why we always head there on vacation. Seriously. It was my main go-to stop on our last visit.
A couple of months ago we were in Florida and doing our requisite stop at Carrabba's and my dad (the self-proclaimed connoisseur of Carrabba's) said to try their Sausage and Lentil Soup. It ... was ... fantastic. The flavours were amazing together but beware that the spiciness of this soup sneak up on you.
Over Easter one of my sisters made a batch at home and I knew it was time to give it a go myself. Oh man! This was sooo good! I made it (along with a loaf of Caraway Rye Bread) and I loved it just as much as Carrabba's. I chose to puree some of the soup to give it a thicker texture but if you want a more traditional soup go ahead and leave that part out. I now have a few servings of this soup in the freezer for those nights when I want a taste of Italian ... or Fort Myers.
2 tsp oil
1 lb Italian sausage - remove casing
1 large onion - diced
2 celery stalks - diced
2 large carrots - sliced
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 (14.5oz) cans of diced tomatoes
3 garlic cloves - minced
1 tsp salt
2 cups dry, red lentils - rinsed well
1 small zucchini - sliced
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4-1/2 tsp dry red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup real cooked bacon bits
3 tsp fresh lemon juice
Heat a large soup pot over medium heat, add oil and sausage. As sausage cooks, chop it into bite-sized pieces. Cook until no longer pink. Add onion, celery, carrots, broth, water, tomatoes, garlic, salt and lentils. Bring to a boil and simmer until lentils are soft.
** If the soup doesn't have enough liquid (the lentils suck up quite a bit) just add some more water as you go. **
After the soup has been simmering for about an hour, add the zucchini, spices, real bacon bits and lemon juice. Simmer for 1/2 hour more. If you desire a thicker soup like me, remove 1/3 to 1/2 of the soup to a bowl and, using a hand blender, puree it. Return it to the original pot.
Serve with a green salad, crusty bread and, if desired, garnish with Parmesan cheese (or additional dried red pepper flakes - if you love the heat).
Source: Inspired by my sister, Jennifer's creation and http://www.food.com/recipe/carrabbas-sausage-and-lentil-soup-162864