2 leeks, white and light green part, finely chopped (note: make sure you wash the leeks well before chopping. Hold them under running water and let the water run between each layer to get out any bits of dirt or grit)
4 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium cloves of garlic, minced (2 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons of minced fresh parsley, plus more for garnishing
1 28-ounce can imported Italian plum tomatoes
8 cups of low-salt chicken broth, divided
1 can cannellini beans, drained
1 cup of dried red lentils, rinsed
4 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice (4 cups)
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch dice (3 cups) Note: Peel and cut the potatoes right before adding them to the soup, so they don’t discolor. Or cut them in advance and keep them in a bowl of water with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Drain before adding them.
1 pound fresh or frozen (defrosted) green peas
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Optional Add In:
2 ounces of cooked pasta, such as ditalini, acini de pepe, or alphabet noodles.
Chopped fresh parsley leaves
Grated imported parmesan cheese, such as Parmigiana Reggiano
Season meat on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat in a large (5-6 qt) soup pot or Dutch oven. Brown the beef in two batches, for 2-3 minutes per side. Set the beef aside and pour all the fat out of the pot.
Add the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil to the pot and sauté the chopped vegetables over medium-low heat: leeks, carrots, celery, onion, and garlic, for 6-7 minutes or until they get tender and start to brown.
Return the meat to the pot. Add the canned tomatoes and their juice, tearing each tomato into pieces by hand as you add it to the pot.( If you’re not up for hand-tearing the tomatoes, roughly chop them before adding) Add the beans, lentils, parsley, and 6 cups of chicken stock (reserve the remaining two cups of stock to thin the soup later, if need be)
Bring soup to a boil over medium-high heat and immediately reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot mostly, leaving a very small opening. Simmer for 1 hour and 20 minutes.
Add the zucchini and potatoes and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook the soup for another hour, uncovered.
Remove the meat and bones from the soup. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and return it to the pot. Add the peas. Cook the soup for 5 minutes longer, until everything is heated through. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Serve in deep bowls. If you like, add a few tablespoons of cooked pasta to each bowl and stir through. Garnish with parsley and parmesan cheese, if you like.
Time Saving Suggestion: Use a food processor with the chopping blade attachment, to finely chop the vegetables. First cut them into chunks. Then pulse them in the food processor until you get a fine chop.