Melt the pancetta fat and cook the onion over moderate heat until tender, about 8 minutes, adding salt and a little cinnamon if desired. (The cinnamon will play up the sweetness of the onion, pancetta and chestnuts.) Add the lentils, bay leaf, thyme and water or stock, and bring to a boil. When boiling, immediately lower heat and simmer until the lentils are tender but not falling apart, about 35 minutes.
Stir in the tomato paste and chestnuts and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Garnish with fried bread croutons, chopped parsley and thyme.
Contributor: pat ciesla
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