Italian cooking is a lot more than just pasta, pizza and tomatoes. In the ancient walled city of Norcia, Umbrian lentils & sausage is on every menu. Its rustic simplicity includes some of the best loved flavours of Italy. Italians are extraordinarily passionate about their local ingredients, so it's no wonder this famous dish highlights lentils and sausage. It comes from the hills of Umbria, where heritage pigs roam the land and pasta plays second fiddle to locally grown lentils.

Yield: 4-6 SERVINGS


2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
4 cloves of finely minced garlic
1 ripe tomato, chopped
2 cups Canadian green lentils
6 cups water
1 tsp salt
6 large Italian-style sausages
1 loaf of Italian bread
A bottle of your very best olive oil for drizzling


Italian cooks begin this dish with a colourful soffrito flavour base. Here’s how. Splash the olive oil into a soup pot over medium heat. Add the aromatic vegetables: onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Stir gently without browning. In just a few minutes, the heat will brighten the flavours and colours. Add the tomato and stir a few minutes longer, 10 minutes in total.

Add the lentils and stir for a few moments, evenly coating each seed with a thin film of oil. This will help the lentils stay distinct. Pour in the water and toss in the salt. Over highest heat, while stirring gently, bring the works to a full, furious boil. Adjust the heat, lowering the pace to a slow, steady simmer. Cover and continue cooking until the lentils cook through and tenderize, about 30 minutes.

As the lentils simmer, turn your attention to the sausages. Cook and brown them any way you care to: on a grill, in a frying pan with a thin film of oil, or in your oven. When they’re done and delicious, transfer to the simmering pot. Any juices and flavourful bits they release should also be added to the lentils. In a pinch, you can even skip the browning and simply submerge the raw sausages in the simmering lentils. By the time the lentils are done, the sausages will have cooked through.

Cut the bread into long, thin slices and toast, bake or grill until lightly browned and delicious.

When the lentils are done, serve and share them with the sausages and crisp bread. Feel free to slice the sausages or simply serve them whole. Drizzle the works with olive oil, too. Enjoy!

© Chef Michael Smith