(For stove or Instant Pot!) There are very few foods that I find as simultaneously delicious, wholesome, and satisfying as beans and lentils. When my husband and I were dating, he was starting to cook for himself more, but he expressed frustration at the difficulty of finding good recipes. My mind quickly jumped to this lentil stew, which I have been making and enjoying for years, so I shared the recipe with him. When he later told me that it was his new favorite food, I knew we had a shining future of culinary compatibility ahead of us.
This stew hits all the right notes for me: delicious, easy to make, both nutritious and hearty, warm, and comforting. It has a wonderful earthy, herby, wholesome flavor that plays well off the salty sausage. It embodies all the reasons I am delighted to be heading into stew season.
One of the happy consequences of getting married is that I’ve gained joint custody of an Instant Pot. I have always made this lentil recipe on the stove, but the promised 4-6 minute cook time of lentils in the Instant Pot was too tantalizing to ignore. After a couple of tries and some small modifications, I found a way to eat this stew about 30 minutes after taking the ingredients out of the refrigerator. If you have a pressure cooker, I highly recommend it for this, but you can certainly have great success with just a normal pot on the stove too. Either way, this dish is worth it.
Fun Fact: After years of deception, reinforced by my college food science course, I have learned that it is NOT necessary to cook beans and other legumes without salt. For the details, I recommend this article on Serious Eats: Should I Salt My Bean-Cooking Water? But to that, I will just add my testimonial that I too have tried cooking beans with and without salt, and they turn out better – both in texture and flavor – with salt.
Lentil Stew with Sausage
adapted from thecosmiccowgirl.wordpress.com
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced or chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
red pepper flakes, to taste
14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
12 oz. smoked, fully cooked beef sausage, sliced
1 cup dry brown lentils, sorted (to remove pebbles or rotten lentils) and rinsed
4 cups chicken broth (2 cups, if using Instant Pot)
chopped parsley, optional
Stove Top Instructions: Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, and add onion, carrots, and celery. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until the onion has softened, stirring often so the vegetables do not brown. Add garlic, and sauté about 1 minute longer. Stir in tomato paste, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Heat, stirring, a minute more. Add tomatoes with their juice, sausage*, lentils, and chicken broth to pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring relatively often for about an hour and a quarter or until the lentils are soft but not mushy. Taste, and add additional salt if needed. Serve with chopped parsley on top, if desired.
*Optional step: brown the sliced sausage in a pan before adding to the soup (because browned meat flavor is delicious).
Instant Pot Instructions: Heat olive oil** in Instant Pot on Sauté setting, and add onion, carrots, and celery. Sauté for 5-10 minutes, until the onion has softened, stirring often so the vegetables do not brown. Add garlic, and sauté about 1 minute longer. Stir in tomato paste, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Heat, stirring, a minute more. Add tomatoes with their juice, sausage, lentils, and chicken broth (2 cup amount!!) to pot. Seal the lid, and cook on manual setting for 4 minutes. Let it sit for 5 minutes after the cook cycle ends, and then force vent the remaining steam from the pot (and stand back). Once the pressure is fully released, open the lid. Taste, and add additional salt if needed. Serve with chopped parsley on top, if desired.
**Optional Step: Before adding the olive oil, brown the sliced sausage in the Instant Pot on Sauté setting, then remove the sausage and set it aside before continuing with the olive oil and vegetables.