Spicy lentil soup with Italian sausage

Things I always (weirdly) have in my cupboard: chickpeas, 14 different kinds of rice, sweetened condensed milk, and lentils. This is a result of those grocery shopping trips in which I wander down each and every aisle and robotically throw things in my cart. My thought process is something like, "Think about those times you've wanted to bake something without leaving your house and the one thing you need is sweetened condensed milk." (Has that ever even happened??) And then there are all the recipes I've made that have called for various kinds of rice—jasmine, long-grain, arborio, the list goes on. And since it seems like 1 grain of rice uncooked magically turns into 35 grains when it's cooked….my supplies are never ever depleted. My digression is leading me to a discussion of lentils. They're always in my cupboard and I rarely think to cook with them, even though I seriously love lentils. So this soup actually came about because I already had all of the ingredients on hand. It was freezing outside and I was craving something warming but low maintenance. I made an enormous batch and had it for a couple of lunches and dinner, too. This is such a tasty and warming soup. Despite being mostly lentils, it doesn't feel monotonous due to the addition of sausage and chunkier carrots and celery. 

Spicy lentil soup with Italian sausage

Yields about 6 bowls
2 cups dry lentils
½ lb ground mild Italian sausage
1½ T olive oil
½ sweet onion, diced
½ large shallot, minced
2 large carrots, peeled, sliced in half the long way, and then cut in half-moons
3 celery stalks, sliced in half the long way and then chopped
1 tsp onion powder
½ T cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 dashes Tabasco sauce, depending on taste (start small—you can always add more later)
8 cups chicken or beef stock, whichever you prefer (I used beef stock, giving the soup a slightly darker color)
White vinegar, Parmesan cheese, and chopped parsley for serving (and crackers/bread are always encouraged)

Start by rinsing the lentils in a colander, and then set them aside. Heat a large saucepan or small Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add sausage and cook until just cooked through, about 5 minutes or so, breaking it apart into small chunks as it cooks. Remove sausage from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add olive oil to pan, and then add onion, shallot, carrots, and celery. Cook for about 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent. Halfway through, stir in spices, salt and pepper. Then add garlic and Tabasco sauce and cook for one minute more until garlic is fragrant. Add lentils to the pan, followed by the stock, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to remove the brown bits. Bring it to a boil and then reduce heat to a low simmer for about 45 minutes, adding the sausage back to the pot for the last 5-10 minutes of simmering. Taste for heat, and add more Tabasco sauce and red pepper flakes if you'd like. Serve with a drizzling of vinegar—about 1 tsp or so per bowl—(trust me!!), freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.