Zuppa di lenticchie di Castelluccio – Umbrian lentil soup


Valeria's zuppa di lenticchie (lentil soup) recipe shows off one of Umbria's finest products – the humble lentil. The lentils of Castelliccio valley are famed for their quality, so seek these out if possible for this simple yet satisfying soup. Read more about the cuisine of Umbria in our foodie guide.

First published in 2018
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Lentils are one of the main staples of Umbrian cuisine. In Catelluccio, a small town on the Monti Sibillini, a high-quality, high-altitude variety of lentils has been grown for millennia. It has recently been awarded the IGP label as a traditional, geographically protected product.

Castelluccio lentils are small in size and have a particularly fine outer layers, which means that they don’t require soaking prior to cooking. Their intense nuttiness and the fact that they retain their shape after cooking means that they are equally suitable for salads or rustic soups. No need to overdo it, then: their flavour is such that they can sustain the weight of a dish with little to no adornment.

This soup, omnipresent on Umbrian tables, is the perfect example of this “less is more” approach. It starts with a soffritto and carries on with lentils and little more. I included some tomato concentrate for colour and a splash of white wine before adding the stock; both can be left out. Using the right type of lentils, however, is mandatory. If you can’t find Umbrian lentils, opt for French puy lentils, or any lentil that is prone to hold it together.




Zuppa di lenticchie di Castelluccio

  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 celery stick, finely diced
  • 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 400g of lentils, preferably from Umbria, picked over
  • 100ml of dry white wine
  • 1.5l vegetable stock, warm
  • 1 tbsp of tomato concentrate
  • fine sea salt


Place a large pan over a medium-low heat. Add the oil and, when hot but not smoking, add the onion, carrot and celery. Fry gently for 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are very soft
Add the lentils and stir to coat in the cooking juices. Pour over the wine and allow it to evaporate. Add roughly half of the warm stock, cover and let the lentils simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
When the lentils have absorbed all the available liquid, add half of the remaining stock and the tomato concentrate. Stir to dissolve. Taste and decide how much longer they should go: at this point, it should be about 10 minutes
Keep adding more stock as needed (how much really depends on how liquid you like your legume soup; I like it on the denser side), and stir and taste more frequently now. Adjust the seasoning to your taste
Once the lentils are tender and the soup is dense, remove it from the heat and allow it to rest, covered, for 10 minutes
Serve with a swirl of grassy olive oil – best if from Umbria – and toasted bread

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Valeria Necchio is an Italian food writer and photographer with roots in the Venetian countryside.

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