Home > Uncategorized > Post 12/13 – Italian Lentil and Pea Soup with a Pesto Swirl

Post 12/13 – Italian Lentil and Pea Soup with a Pesto Swirl

One of the many beautiful sunsets we saw in Levanto, Italy

Once again, I took liberties with my naming.  Italian might be a misnomer, but I made up this soup using a few ingredients we bought in Italy, so I called it “Italian.”  The rest of the ingredients came from our pantry or Garden Cove.  It was a pantry soup, tried to use what I had on-hand.

We bought the pesto in Levanto and the orzo pasta in Milan.  The recipe is also inspired by a soup we had in Levanto.  We had dinner at Ristorante da Rino, at the recommendation of our friend and host, Claudio.  It was one of the best meals we had on our trip. My favorite part of dinner was the minestrone soup. Their soup rivaled some of the food at the slow food restaurant, La Pallotta, in Assisi (one of the best meals of my life).   It was a thick, creamy bean soup with a pesto swirl, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of Parmesan.  Nothing like the thin, tomato-based soup served in the States.   

Pesto:  We visited and fell in love with Liguria, a region in northwest Italy. It is famous for its cuisine, particularly pesto. For good reason – the local pesto is incredible! We brought home a few jars.  The pesto we bought includes cheese, so this dish isn’t vegan but it is vegetarian friendly.  You could easily make it vegan by using a pesto with just basil, walnuts (or pine nuts), olive oil, and garlic and leaving off the optional Parmesan sprinkle garnish.  It would probably be even better if you made fresh pesto.  But there was something special about using a jar of pesto from a cute little shop in Levanto.

 Orzo pasta:  We also bought back orzo pasta.  Orzo pasta is pasta in the shape of large grains of rice.  It is also called risoni.  Luckily, you can find it in many grocery stores here.  It was just kinda cool using a bag from a fancy-dancy department store in Milan. Orzo is often used in soups.  I love it in lentil soup, split pea soup, and chicken soup. Since this soup is a combination of split pea and lentil soup, I thought it would be a good addition.  This soup is thick, more like a stew, so I pre-cooked the orzo in salted boiling water and then drained it before adding to the soup.

I made this soup a few weeks ago.  I wrote down the ingredients on the back of an envelope.  I have so many scraps of paper with a list of ingredients, it’s kinda ridiculous!  Slight problem, I didn’t include the directions. So, I’m trying to recreate it in my mind.  Hope it isn’t too scattered.


Italian Lentil and Pea Soup with a Pesto Swirl

10 oz. (approx. 2 cups) of fresh sugar snap peas (frozen sweet peas would work too)

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 stalks of celery, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 cup lentils (I used Turkish red lentils)

4 cups water

1 teaspoon salt

¼ -½ teaspoon black or cayenne pepper (or Penzeys’ Black & Red Blend)

½ teaspoon dried parsley

1 bay leaf

½-1 cup of cooked orzo pasta (depends on how much you like pasta!)

pesto, for garnish

olive oil, for garnish

freshly grated Parmesan, for garnish

If you use fresh pods, use everything – pods and peas (might want to remove the string if they are stringy).  You can also use frozen peas or frozen peas in the pod. Cook the peas until just tender in a small saucepan on the stove or zapped in the microwave. Mash them with a fork or purée with a hand blender.  Set aside.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot sauté the celery, onions, and garlic in the olive oil, until soft.  Stir in the lentils, water, mashed peas, salt, pepper, parsley, and bay leaf.   Cover and simmer on low for about hour or until the lentils are tender.  Check every 20 minutes or so to see if it needs more water.  Add water as needed. Remove the bay leaf.  Purée some of the soup or mash it (depends on how much texture you want).  Add the cooked orzo pasta.  Serve with a swirl of pesto, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkle of Parmesan. 

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