A warm family tradition: lentil soup

Different cultures have different holiday traditions. On New Year’s Day, our family always prepares lentils, or “little coins,” for the family meal. 

The lentil is an annual plant in the legume family with a variety of colors, including yellow, red, brown and black, and is a great way to start the new year eating healthy.

We always inspect them for small stones or debris, then boil them with a chicken or vegetable broth. Lentils can be used in a variety of ways. They are a great addition to most soups, chunky stews, creamy risotto and even hash. We have even had a wonderful lentil lasagna! Yum!

Our Nana would always make a rich lentil soup for Papa Tony on New Year’s Day, using a ham bone to flavor the broth. She would add sweet  onions, baby carrots and tiny pieces of ham from the bone. We never really knew why she always served this every year until we grew older and finally asked her.

This is what she said: “Your great grandmother Nelli always said you must always have a dish containing lentils for the new year.  This will bring a plentiful year filled with lots of good health, happiness and good fortune.” The lentils resemble tiny coins or pennies and when cooked they grow in size and become plentiful.”  Who couldn’t use that wish for the new year?  Enjoy!


Tune in as we join Better CT, Channel 3 @3pm on Tuesdays with some great slim-and-trim recipes for the new year. Let’s get healthy together!


Great Grandmother Nelli’s Lentil Soup

1 ham bone (previously frozen and left over from Christmas dinner!)

1 pound dry lentils (sorted through)

3 tablespoons olive oil (Grandmother never measured, if you want to use more, go ahead)

2 good-sized medium onions, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks

2-3 ribs of celery, chopped

6 cups water or broth, more if needed

salt & pepper to taste

1 cup tomatoes or tomato sauce

Parmesan cheese for garnish

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil and saute the onions, carrots and celery about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 1 minute more.

Add the ham bone and the lentils, then the tomatoes or sauce. Pour the water/broth into the pot and simmer soup for about 1 hour, covered, or until the lentils are tender. Adjust seasoning. If soup is too thick, add more broth. You can serve with rice or a small pasta, such as ditalini or tubettini. Enjoy!