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Signature Dish: Venetian lentil soup recipe

WHO: Caroline Cerilli Goodrich of Tampa, 50, a health care consultant and wife to Jerry, mother to Tristan, 6.

What: Venetian Lentil Soup

About the recipe: "My mother, Mary Cerilli of Citrus County, got this recipe from her mother-in-law when she was married more than 60 years ago," Caroline says. The mother-in-law was from Northern Italy; Mrs. Cerilli, who just turned 87, is from Venice. The original recipe involved sausage and a heavy tomato base. Caroline has lightened it with diced ham and says "everyone prefers the lighter style."

Tips for others: "Watch out for the saltiness of the ham and don't oversalt the soup. Also, I'm not much of a mincer or precision cutter; I'm a rustic cook, and all the vegetables can be roughly chopped. The amounts are approximate. It's a very friendly recipe and you can't go wrong if you add more or less of this or that."

On the side: Caroline suggests serving this soup with a glass of bold red wine and warm Italian or French bread. Slice the bread on the diagonal, rub with a garlic clove or spread with roasted garlic spread or pesto, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with grated Romano cheese and broil until slightly browned.

Can't cook without: "Garlic and olive oil. I'm not a heavy-handed Italian cook, but those are two essential things in the pantry. Gadgets aren't what makes a good cook."

Advice from the cook: "I think everybody can cook. Get some recipes and try. I showed several friends how to cook really simple things and that got them started when they saw their success. I think people get daunted and intimidated by big cookbooks and they don't even try. There's no such thing as a bad cook."

Judy Stark, special to the Times

Signature Dish is published periodically in Taste. If you have a recipe that you would like featured or would like to nominate other home cooks and their dishes, please e-mail the information to and include a name and daytime phone number. Include SIGNATURE DISH in the subject line. Nominations can be mailed to Taste, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.


Venetian Lentil Soup

1 (6-ounce) package baby spinach (remove the stems if desired)

½ to ¾ cup chopped celery

½ to ¾ cup carrots, roughly diced

1 or 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1 small to medium onion, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsley, chopped

1 cup cooked or smoked ham, diced

3 tablespoons tomato paste

Garlic salt to taste

Fresh ground pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon Bragg Liquid Aminos (see note)

2 to 4 cups chicken broth, homemade or store-bought

1 (16-ounce) package dried brown lentils (2 cups)

Grated Locatelli Romano cheese for garnish

Place spinach, celery, carrots, garlic, onion, parsley, ham, tomato paste and seasonings in a 3-quart saucepan or soup kettle. Add olive oil and cook for a few minutes to soften vegetables. Stir in Bragg Liquid Aminos.

Add 2 to 4 cups of chicken broth and enough water to total 5 cups of liquid to the pot. Add the lentils.

Bring to a boil; lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes uncovered. Watch and add more liquid if the lentils seem dry or the soup is too thick; you may need another 1 to 2 cups.

Partly cover the pot and simmer another 20 to 25 minutes.

This can be very thick, almost a stew, or, with the addition of more broth or water, a thinner soup. Serve in bowls topped with grated cheese.

Makes about 10 cups.

Variations: Use sliced sausage instead of diced ham. Caroline uses mild Italian, but you can use whatever you like: hot Italian, turkey or chicken sausage. Brown the sausage before adding it to the soup. Or eliminate the carrots and spinach and substitute one 14.5-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, chopped, and half of a 6-ounce can of tomato paste.

Note: Bragg Liquid Aminos is an all-purpose vegetable protein seasoning made from soybeans. A 32-ounce bottle is $5.19 at Publix; look for it in the natural foods aisle.

Source: Caroline Cerilli Goodrich, Tampa

Signature Dish: Venetian lentil soup recipe 05/18/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 17, 2010 9:45pm]
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