Lentil Soup

Gloria's high school friend was Gloria Zolick. She must have been thinking of her when she was preparing Lentils one day because she added Polish Kielbasa to the Italian soup. More likely, she had a piece left over in the refrigerator and decided it belonged in the soup. In any event, we have been having it that way since and we think it does wonders for the flavor. Sweet Italian sausage may be substituted , it is also very good.

1 cup dried brown lentils
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup diced ham or salt pork
12 slices kielbasa (1/4 in thick)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 plum tomatoes quartered
1 1/2 cups water
1 fresh sage leaf or a pinch of dried
1 fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1 1/2 cups ditalini or other small soup pasta
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Salt and ground pepper

1. Place the lentils in a bowl, add cold water to cover and soak for an hour.
2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Saute the ham for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes.
Stir in the celery and carrot and cook for 5 minutes more.
Cook keilbasa or sausage in a small pan until just browned.
3. Drain the lentils, rinse them well and drain again. Add them to the pan, stirring well to cover them in the fat. Pour in the water, with the herbs and tomatoes and bring the soup to a boil.
4. Add the kielbasa or sausage and cook over medium heat for about one hour or until the lentils are tender.
5. While soup is cooking, prepare pasta by cooking separately until al dente.
6. Stir in pasta just before serving. (The pasta is cooked separately to minimize Absorption of the soup by the pasta, which tends to make it too thick)
7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
8. Add freshly grated cheese to each bowl.