1poundbrown lentils (about 2 1/4 cups), rinsed and picked through/small debri and stones removed
1dried bay leaf
1leftover ham bone or smoked ham hock
1poundItalian chicken or pork sausages (fully cooked), sliced or chopped
In a 6- or 8-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots, parsley, thyme, garlic, and crushed red pepper (if using), and cook, stirring often, until the veggies start to soften, 3-4 minutes.
Add the broth, lentils, bay leaf, and the ham bone or ham hock (it may not be fully submerged, that's ok). Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and continue to simmer for 45-60 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and moderate the heat if you need to.
While the soup cooks, brown the sausages with a bit of olive oil in a skillet set over medium heat (optional: you can leave the sausages out entirely or throw them in the soup without browning but I like the flavor and texture from browning them first).
Remove the ham bone, and if desired, pick off any pieces of ham and add to the soup with the browned sausage. Heat through.
Season to taste with salt and pepper(this is important! Additional salt is not included in the recipe to account for varying saltiness in different varieties of ham and broth, so make sure to add to taste or the soup may be bland).
Salt: make sure to add salt to taste at the end of cooking. Depending on the ham bone or ham hock used, you may not need extra salt. Because I use low-sodium chicken broth, I add a pinch or two of coarse, kosher salt.