Even though this heartwarming stew contains meat, it builds its protein heft from lentils. The sausage plays a background role, just enough to add a spicy richness without overwhelming the healthfulness of the dish. Cooking healthy is not an all or nothing proposition. Sometimes just the right amount of a heavier, richer ingredient can elevate the flavor of a recipe without overwhelming the nutritious elements. The bulk of the ingredients in this recipe are plant-based, using lentils, carrots, celery, and spinach to build the base, and herbs and spices to round out the flavor.
Lentil, Sausage and Spinach Stew
1 1/2 cups green lentils
8 ounces Italian sweet sausage (about 2-3 links), casing removed
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 stalks celery, with their leaves, diced
4-5 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 cup red wine
2 cups vegetable broth or stock
2 teaspoons dried dill
3 cups fresh spinach, chopped if leaves are large
Salt and pepper to taste
Red or white wine vinegar
Plain yogurt, if desired
- Rinse the lentils in cold water and pick out any stones. Put them in a medium saucepan with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. If they start to look dry, add some hot water.
- While the lentils are cooking, place a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add sausage and crumble with the back of a wooden spoon into small pieces. Cook until browned. Add fennel seeds and bay leaves and cook for another minute or two. Remove sausage from pan and set aside. Don’t wipe out the pan.
- Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and add onions. Cook until softened then add the garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Add ketchup, red wine, celery and carrots and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cooked lentils and their cooking liquid, vegetable broth, dill and sausage. Simmer for 10 minutes or until carrots are tender.
- Add spinach, cooking for a few more minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve with a splash of vinegar and a dollop of plain yogurt, if desired.