We had tons of great food in Nashville.  But after taste-testing so many burgers at the Hard Rock on Saturday night, I really wanted nothing to do with beef when I returned home!

Downtown Kansas City has an amazing City Market where vendors and farmers set up on the weekend and sell lots of fresh, seasonal produce, local honey, fudge and other treats.  My blogger friend Ali did a couple of awesome posts about our local market.  Check them out here and here.

Since I took Monday off work to recover from our road trip, I met Paul downtown for lunch and stopped by the Indian Grocery (Al Habashi) to take a look around.  This store has tons of spices ($1 per scoop!), beans and grains, fresh pita bread and naan that make the store smell amazing.  The lentils called my name as soon as I spotted them.  I knew I could create a fresh, healthy and meatless dinner!

This soup isn’t very pretty but it was tasty.   It had lots of layers of flavors and different textures throughout.  I liked the pasta added in but it would be wonderful if you left it out too.  It was full of deep flavor and almost reminded me of minestrone.  I loved it and it was even better as leftovers!

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Vegetable-Lentil Soup Recipe

Yield: 12 (1-cup) servings

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled, quartered and chopped
3 celery ribs, halved and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, more or less to taste
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, more or less to taste
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound dry brown lentils (I think it would work well with red lentils too, just be prepared to cook the lentils a little longer)
12 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2/3 cup orzo, Stelline or other small pasta
Shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. kosher salt, more or less to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in a stock pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add onion. Saute the onion for 5-6 minutes until it is fragrant and begins to soften. Add the carrots, celery, garlic and the bay leaves and cook for another 5-6 minutes until the vegetables begin to soften.

Pour in the wine and stir. Add the sage, thyme, crushed red pepper flakes, ground black pepper and the can of tomatoes with the juice and stir to combine. Continue to cook over medium heat until the tomatoes begin to break down and the liquid begins to evaporate.

Stir in the lentils until they are coated and add the broth. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for about 40 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Return the heat to medium, add the pasta and cook until it reaches al dente. Season to taste with salt and more pepper, if desired.

Served the soup garnished with Parmesan cheese.

Feel free to leave out the salt and pepper until the end of cooking to flavor to taste. I found that I wanted to add salt as I went. I use no salt added canned tomatoes as well as reduced sodium broth.

Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis