Chef Ellen

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Black Lentil Minestrone

Black lentils are a great source of protein, fiber, potassium, magnesium, iron, folate, and zinc. They are the most nutritious member of the lentil family and hold up well in soups. Most times when I make soup, I freeze an extra quart. There have been many occasions when those forgotten soups were lifesavers, such as on a hectic evening or when a friend was sick or in need of a meal. Then there are the moments when I have taken two different soups from the freezer and put them together for a surprisingly fabulous meal.


  • 3 tablespoons olive coconut, or avocado oil
  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs roughly chopped (reserve fronds)
  • 3 large carrots roughly chopped
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen butternut squash roughly chopped (see notes)
  • 8 stalks asparagus roughly chopped
  • Bouquet garni of fresh parsley rosemary, and thyme
  • 5 ½ cups black lentils beluga or regular
  • 4 cups to 6 vegetable broth
  • 1 can 15 ounce diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups gluten free pasta shells or other small pasta see notes
  • Optional toppings: parsley basil, fennel fronds



  • Put the oil, onion, fennel, and carrots in a large stockpot and sauté over medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the butternut squash and asparagus and stir for several minutes. Add the bouquet garni and stir gently for 2 more minutes. Stir in the lentils and 4 cups of the broth, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes (and their liquid) and the pasta shells, recover, and continue to simmer for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. If you find that the soup is too thick, add the remaining 2 cups broth. The soup will also thicken as it cools.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste and add your toppings of choice. Serve immediately.
  • NOTES: If you don’t have butternut squash, any 16- ounce bag of frozen root vegetables will work. This is a good opportunity to clean out your freezer! You can also substitute 2 fresh diced sweet potatoes. For the pasta shells, I like 365 or Chickapea brand shells because they hold up nicely in soup.