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 | By Michelle DiFranco

Embrace the Simplicity of St. Francis With Umbrian Lentil Soup

Francesco Bernardone had it all. He grew up in the bustling Italian town of Assisi in the late 12th century. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant, so he enjoyed an easy life with access to pretty much everything a young man at that time could hope for. And yet, despite having all he wanted, Francesco found he still … wanted.

Francesco was restless for something deeper, something more meaningful, and something greater. His dreams of being a heroic knight faded when compared to the more noble cause that the Lord would call him to embrace. Francesco encountered the poor around him – those who did not have all that he did – and it changed him.

Francesco, of course, is St. Francis of Assisi. His desire to abandon the wealth he was born into for the sake of simplicity in the service of Christ would result in him founding a religious order in 1210. He began a movement that continues today in the Franciscan orders throughout the world. His example of simplicity, faith, and love for others is a model for Christians everywhere.

Hundreds of thousands of people of all creeds visit Assisi every year to learn more about St Francis and marvel at his legacy.

St. Francis is one of the most beloved Catholic saints. He spent his entire life seeking to spread the Gospel and honor all of God’s creation. Although many of us aspire to embrace his example, few of us truly do. And yet, deep down, I believe we wish we could. There is a part of us that sees the merit and the beauty in Francis’ life of simplicity and sacrifice.

St. Francis’ feast day is Oct. 4. Perhaps one way we can honor him is to cook simply. And take to heart the words he preached so long ago that are still relevant today: “Your God is of your flesh, he lives in your nearest neighbor, in every man.”

The recipe that follows is (like all things Franciscan) simple and meager. But it is also nutritious and delicious. Like St. Francis, this recipe from his region offers beauty and sustenance without expensive ingredients. Enjoy!

Michelle DiFranco is a designer and the busy mom of three children.

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Umbrian Lentil Soup

  • (4-6 servings)

  • 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1¼ cups lentils (green are best)
  • 6-7 cups chicken broth
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste

In a medium stock pot, heat extra virgin olive oil. Add the onion, celery and carrots and cook on medium-high heat for 15 minutes (stirring frequently) until the vegetables are soft and translucent. Add a dash of salt and pepper and then add wine and tomato paste. 

Add the lentils and stir to combine. Add 6 cups of broth, reduce heat and cover with lid. Allow lentils to simmer for 40-45 minutes or until tender (stirring occasionally). 

Remove lid and add more salt and pepper to taste. You may add more broth, depending on desired thickness of soup. Top off with grated Parmesan cheese.