2 pounds sweet Italian sausages
6 cups chicken stock as needed
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for sautéing
1 medium-large yellow onion, finely diced
3 ribs celery, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 heaping cups dried brown lentils
2 whole bay leaves, broken
1 teaspoon sweet basil (fresh preferred)
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1 pound linguini or spaghettini cooked al dente
Extra virgin olive oil for dressing
Minced parsley for garnish
Crushed pepper flakes for garnish
Start off by rough-chopping the sausages into serving size pieces. Then in a 5-quart Dutch oven, bring half of the chicken stock to a gentle boil, drop in the sausage pieces, and delicately poach them until they become soft and tender (which should take about 20 minutes covered at a low simmer).
At the same time that the sausages are poaching, take a non-stick 10-inch skillet, heat the olive oil to medium-high, and sauté the chopped onion, the diced celery, and the minced garlic until the onions wilt and the garlic softens. Then when the seasoning veggies are ready, transfer them to the Dutch oven and stir in the lentils until they are completely mixed into the ingredients already in the pot.
At this point, stir in the bay leaves, the basil, the salt, and the black pepper and, once again, mix everything together. It should be noted here that it’s at this time that you add more chicken broth until it just covers the lentils, say about an inch or so.
It’s important to understand that the lentils need to be stirred quite frequently during the cooking stages—it keeps them from burning on the bottom of the pot, but mostly it aids in tenderizing them by allowing them to absorb the flavored chicken/ stock.
For the most part, I recommend that you cook the lentils partially covered, but occasionally remove the lid and stir in additional broth as the liquid evaporates—in the end you want to have a pot of tender lentils suspended in a slightly thickened creamy base. And remember that you are not making soup!
Generally, the lentils will be done in about 45 minutes to an hour, but I suggest that you simmer them over low heat until it’s time to serve them.
When you’re ready to eat, generously ladle the lentils and sausage over a plate of hot, al dente, linguini or spaghettini, drizzled with olive oil and garnished with minced parsley and crushed red pepper flakes.
Continue adding the flavored poaching broth a little at a time until the consistency reaches the texture you desire. If you add too much, you’ll end up producing lentil soup. If you don’t add enough, you’ll find you have a lentil dip. They’re both excellent, but the proper consistency is right in the middle of the two.