Tomato, red pepper and lentil soup

Tomato, red pepper and lentil soup

For me, there is nothing more comforting on a cold, cold day, than to put my feet up and enjoy a nice bowl of soup with a chunk of bread or a toasted cheese sandwich and this soup is such a winner. Tomato, red pepper and lentil soup. Think, the best and most satisfying bolognese you’ve ever eaten and then you’re in the right ballpark for this delicious soup. So rich and full of flavour and bursting with tomatoes and basil. The lentils give the soup a really beautiful thick texture and the oregano, saffron and balsamic vinegar all add to that Italian feel. 

Yeast extract is a bit of a secret weapon here. Alongside the stock cubes it gives the soup a real depth, which is brilliant, particularly with vegetarian recipes that obviously lack that intense meaty savouriness. Bicarbonate of soda might sound like an odd addition, and I’d only discovered it recently, but the science of it basically means it cuts the acidity of the tomatoes, and there are a lot in this recipe, so much like sugar, it balances the flavours nicely. 

Now this soup, bursting with vegetables, serves a lot of people. I like that, because it means I can store it in the fridge and have snaffle batches away in the freezer too, but if you’d prefer to make a smaller quantity – this’ll easily feed 12 – you can reduce the amounts, not a problem. Leftovers make me feel organised and together and I’m always happy when I can pull something quick and delicious out of the freezer, so I definitely prefer making more, not less, but it’s entirely up to you. 


2 large onions (red or white)

4 sticks celery 

4 large carrots

1 480g jar of roasted red peppers

2 500g jars of tomato passata

3 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

250g red split lentils

2 tsp yeast extract (I always use Marmite, love the flavour)

1 tbsp tomato paste

2 cloves of garlic 

1 vegetable stock cube

2 tsp ground black pepper

Salt to taste 

1 bunch fresh basil

2 tbsp Marsala (optional)

30g butter (plus a little oil to cook the vegetables)

2 tsp fennel seeds

3 tsp dried oregano

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp caster sugar

⅛ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Makes enough for 12 people

Method for Tomato, red pepper and lentil soup

In a food processor (or by hand if you like) blitz the onions, celery, carrots alongside the basil stalks and pulse until very finely chopped. 

Heat a large saucepan with a little oil and butter and then add the fennel seeds and oregano.  When the oil is hot, add the onion and carrot mix and stir to combine. Add a little salt at this stage to help the vegetables cook gradually. The salt will release water from the vegetables, so it doesn’t burn but reduces down nicely. 

After 5 minutes or so, add the tomato puree and stir. Cook for a few more minutes. Then add the garlic, vegetable stock cube and yeast extract and saffron. 

When the vegetables are soft and cooked down add a splash of marsala. (This is entirely optional, so if you’d prefer not to add alcohol, then simply miss it out). 

Then add the jarred red peppers, passata and tinned tomatoes and stir to combine. Add the bicarbonate of soda and stir. (The purpose of this is to decrease the acid in all the tomatoes, to balance the flavours a little). 

Add the red split lentils and coat in the vegetable mixture. Then add about 2 litres of hot water from a recently boiled kettle and turn down the heat to let the soup cook. The lentils will absorb water while they cook, so keep adding water every so often to make sure it isn’t too thick. 

Now to wait for the soup to cook

As this is such a large amount of soup, the lentils take a while to cook, so bring to the boil and blip away on the stove top for 45 minutes or so until the lentils are soft. 

Once the lentils are cooked, add in a little more salt and pepper to taste. It’s best to add most of the seasoning at this stage, as too much salt can make lentils a little hard when cooking. Also add the balsamic vinegar and sugar too. Stir in the fresh basil leaves too. 

Blitz the soup with a handheld mixer how you like, I’ve made the soup pretty smooth here but it still remains nicely thick and has a bit of texture. 

Serve warm with a drizzle of oil, a few shavings of pecorino and some black pepper and a nice wodge of bread on the side. 

This soup freezes really well, so keep a few portions in the fridge and then bag up the rest and store in the freezer which will stay good for a few months. Then when you want them, defrost, heat and enjoy. 

Looking for other yummy winter warmers? Check out our Roasted carrot and lentil soup, Cheddar Red Leicester cheese scone recipe or our Mozzarella dough bites – so delicious. You can’t eat just one.

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