I have a “go-to” lentil soup recipe that I’ve been making for several years. It’s a typical lentil soup with carrots, thyme, etc., and it’s very good. I wanted to try a different version; I found this Italian lentil soup recipe, and it’s delicious! I think the toasted saffron steeped in warmed Cognac are what make this dish. I hope you’ll try it!
1 lb Italian or French (de Puy) lentils, rinsed and soaked in cold water for 1/2 hour
1/4 tsp saffron threads
3 Tbsp Congnac, warmed
2 Tbsp olive oil, plus a bit of additional for toasting the baguette slices
3 oz pancetta, diced
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 bay leaf
6 cups cold water
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 baguette, thinly (1/2 inch) sliced on the diagonal
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 tsp ground cloves
1 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley
Lightly toast the saffron in a small, heavy skillet over high heat, then stir into 2 Tbsp of the warmed Cognac in a small bowl. Set aside to steep.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and saute for 5 minutes, stirring in the garlic the last 30 seconds. Add bay leaf, water, lentils, saffron/cognac mixture, tomatoes and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring well. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1/2 hour. Remove from heat and stir in the red wine vinegar. Season with additional salt, if desired (I added another tsp salt, and thought that was good). Let soup sit for a bit, uncovered.
Meanwhile, whisk together in a small metal bowl the cream, remaining 1 Tbsp Cognac and ground cloves until thick. Cover and place in refrigerator.
Heat about 1 Tbsp olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add baguette slices and lightly brown on both sides.
Ladle soup into bowls. Place a dollop of cream mixture over each and garnish with parsley. Serve with toasted baguette slices.