May 17, 2022

A la Carte: Two New (and Lucky) Soups for the New Year

Lee White

Luck can be two different sides of a coin. 

Just a couple of weeks ago, I lost one very good friend, and another very good friend lost his mother.

Just three days after that, I went to a birthday party for Jacques Pepin, who is now 86. It was a small party of maybe 14 people. Most of us have known each other for 20 or more years. 

Jacques’ beautiful wife, Gloria, died just a year ago, while Marty Travis’ husband died less than a decade ago.  My husband died 12 years ago. While all three of us terribly miss our spouses, all 14 feel lucky to be together, pretty healthy, tripled vaxxed … and even smarter than when we were in college!

We also never talked about politics.

Now it is 2022 and I am hoping all my readers and friends (many are both), my children and their children, and all of yours too, have great luck, superb health and enough prosperity to share with others.

Below are two good luck soups. Both are delicious. 

Good Luck Lentil Soup

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Adapted from Italian Holiday Cooking by Michele Scicolone (William Morrow, New York, 2001)
Yield: serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, chopped*
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 small dried pepperoncini (I use a pinch of crushed red pepper instead)
1 pound lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
½ cup dried tomatoes, cut into strips (I use a 28-ounce can of Muir Glen diced tomatoes, instead)
Salt to taste
Extra-virgin olive oil

In a large pot, combine oil, pancetta, onion, garlic and pepperoncino (or crushed pepper) over medium heat until the onion is wilted and golden.

Add lentils then stir in the peppers and tomatoes. If using dried tomatoes, add 6 cups of water; if using canned tomatoes, add 2 to 3 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, until lentils are almost tender.

Add salt to taste and simmer until lentils are cooked.

Serve hot or at room temperature with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. 

*Pancetta is unsmoked Italian bacon. Rolled into a sausage shape, pancetta is used to flavor bean dishes and sauces. Most supermarkets have it in the deli department.

Friendship Soup Mix

From Vange Chatis of Somers, Connecticut
Yield: 4 quarts

1 pound ground beef
3 quarts water
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
½ cup dry split peas
¼ cup pearl barley
¼ cup dried minced onion
½ cup uncooked long-grain rice
1/3 cup beef bouillon granules
½ cup dry lentils
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
½ cup alphabet macaroni or other small macaroni

In a very large stockpot, brown beef, then drain. Add water, tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients except for the macaroni. Stir together and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Add macaroni, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until everything is tender.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day. She was a resident of Old Lyme for many years but now lives in Groton, Conn. Contact Lee at

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