I had the pleasure of working at Eataly in NYC a few months after it opened. It was a totally incredible experience. I got to work with people from all around world, tasted amazing products both from Italy and New York. It was constantly busy, ever changing and busting at the seams. Did I mention I was also a sommelier so my day consisted of drinking (tasting) wine? Yes, my entire day was consumed (literally and figuratively) in wine.
However, I would say the best part of about working at Eataly was the food that we served in the restaurants. It’s hard for me to verbalize how good the food was (still is) at Eataly. There are so many recipes I cook today that are based on dishes I learned how to make while at Eataly.
This particular recipe for Black Lentil Soup is from the restaurant Le Verdure, which means “Vegetables” in Italian. Le Verdure was the hidden gem of Eataly. No one really wanted to eat there. I mean yes, there were all those vegetarians and vegan that were excited about a “Vegetable” restaurant but the average customer at Eataly wanted to eat at Pizza/Pasta. Because pizza and pasta is “real” Italian food. Please note: anyone that’s been to Italy (the actual country) knows there is so much more to Italian food than pizza and pasta. But that’s another post in itself.
As I was saying, Le Verdure is the hidden gem of Eataly. The food there is simply delicious, seasonal and always changing. They had a rotation of seasonal soups and my most favorite was the Black Lentil Soup. Perfectly simple and unadulterated. I ate it every time it was on the menu and would take any leftovers home at the end of the day. Oh yeah, Eataly makes all their soups fresh daily. I couldn’t get enough of this Black Lentil Soup so, I sat down with Sous Chef one day and asked how they made it (for staff training of course). The Sous Chef explained it was made with a basic mirepoix or in Italian sofrito (onions, carrots, celery), garlic, black “beluga” lentils and vegetable stock. That was it. The end.
I mean this soup was packed with deep, rich, savory, umami flavor. It was so meaty that everyone (meat eaters included) loved but it was VEGAN! Flipping vegan soup. They garnished the soup was crispy carrots strips and extra virgin olive oil. So why was it so good you may ask? Like I have said a million times on Fork My Life (and in my life in general) they used super-high quality ingredients. They cooked with super delicious extra virgin olive oil from a small producer in Italy, high quality black lentils that have a rich and creamy texture once cooked, fresh vegetables and vegetable stock that was made in-house. When you use the best ingredients possible you don’t need to do a lot.
My version of recipe is almost identical except…I don’t use vegetable stock. I actually use water. I know that’s weird for me. However, I feel like all the ingredients bring so much flavor to the party that I don’t necessarily need veggie stock. If you did use veggie stock however it would be just as awesome, maybe even better. Second, I add Parmigiano Reggiano rinds to the soup for added flavor and a combination of fresh thyme, fresh basil and dried bay leaves. I also garnish the soup with basil leaves instead of deep-fried crispy carrots. But besides that the recipe is almost the same.
To start the soup, I essentially “fry” or sweat my sofrito in extra virgin olive oil. Like I said before, I start with really high-quality extra virgin olive oil. The onions, carrots and celery should be chopped really fine for the sofrito because you want it to almost “melt” into the soup once it’s cooking. You have the option of chopping the shit out of all these veggies for a while until they’re really small or you can use a food processor (as I did). However, it’s important to note that I chop each vegetable separately in the food processor because if you add the onions, carrots and celery together it will turn into mush. You don’t want mushy veggies.
So after you sweat your sofrito in EVOO then you add the lentils and sauté for about 1 minute. Then you add your water, Parmigiano Reggiano rind and herb mixture. Simmer the soup for about 30-45 or until the lentils are tender. At this point you have two options: 1) keep the lentils whole 2) purée the lentils until smooth. I opt for a combo of options one and two. I like to purée half of soup and add it back to the rest of the soup. So you have a creamy smooth texture with little lentils dispersed throughout your soup. I’m almost positive they didn’t purée the soup at Eataly but I like the combo personally.
So now you know my love and slight obsession with Eataly and the incredible food there. I know Eataly can seem like a tourist trap and can be really expensive but there are great hidden gems like Le Verdure restaurant and Black Lentil Soup. Eataly taught me that you don’t need to do much to make great food, just start with great ingredients. And I say, preach away Eataly, preach.