Fr. Z’s Kitchen: Lentils from the Benedictine Monks of Norcia. IMPROVISE – ADAPT – OVERCOME

Right click for larger.

The other day I received my newsletter from the great, , traditional Benedictine monks in Norcia . The beer monks. You might consider subscribing to their beer club!  Sign up and receive their terrific beer every month.  This is very important for their income, especially as they have to rebuild so much that was destroyed.  And now, with the problems in Italy, they need lots of support.

Back to the newsletter.

This time, they included a recipe for lentils.

Lentils!”, quoth I.  “I very much like lentils.  I think I have some stashed in the cupboard.”

Sure enough.  I found a sack with about 125g.   I did the math on the recipe, slimming it down, and looked for the other things.

Since I lacked the chicken broth they suggested, I got out a “pod” of concentrated broth which I have in reserve.  Add hot water and stir it up.

After dicing up the carrot and onion, I added the broth and lentils.

No celery in the fridge for the soffritto.   Big problem?

I improvised, I adapted, I OVERCAME the dearth of a celery stalk.

It was going to need some salt anyway.  Right?

After some 20 minutes, I added the tomatoes.

Let it simmer with a bay leaf.  I bumped it up with a sprig of rosemary.

Friday supper in Lent: Lentils and half a toasted bagel.   This was my only meal of the day.  I’m fasting a bit on Fridays for some intentions.

This was NOT a hardship meal, friends.  It was delicious.  And the bitters added an interesting tang behind the other flavors.

It is good right now to think in terms of simple foods which have a good shelf life.

Beans [but not… “Beans”, if you know what I mean.]

Here is the recipe from the Norcia newsletter.

St. Benedict’s Lenten Lentils

Serves 4-6 People

Olive oil
1 minced carrot
1 rib of minced celery
1 minced white onion
4 minced garlic cloves
17.6 oz (500g) of small brown lentils -Italian or Umbrian if possible (Lenticchie di Castellucio)
5 1/4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 of a 28 oz can of peeled, whole Italian tomatoes (diced)

1. Sauté the minced carrot, celery, onion and garlic in olive oil for 10 minutes.
2. Add stock, lentils, bay leaf; bring to a boil and then simmer gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add diced tomatoes and salt to taste, continue cooking for at least 15 more minutes, until lentils are tender and have slightly thickened.
4. Remove the lentils from the heat source and let them sit covered for 10 minutes (this will help thicken them).
5. Serve drizzled with olive oil and accompanied by toasted bread.


Back to the beer for a moment.   It would be really good and quite monastic to have their beer with those lentils.  And pray singing the table prayers using THESE before and after the meal!

You can now get FLAT-RATE SHIPPING at$14.99 for a case to anywhere in these USA.  If you order 3 or more cases, you get FREE shipping.  Also, all subscribers to the Brewmonks’ Club get FREE shipping.  Their beers are available in both in .75 liter bottles in cases of 6 and of 12.  You can get 1 case per month or 1 case every other month.

NB:  Also, they monks reached out to me and said that for every FIVE new Club members who sign up and reference “Father Z” in the “Notes about your Order” line, I will get a free case of beer to share with my priest friends and the bishop!


It’s Lent and we are at war with an invisible enemy.  That doesn’t mean that you have to eat poorly or have – quod Deus avertat! – ordinary beer.


If traditional Benedictine monks are going with lentils made with a little chicken broth during LENT, I think I will risk the recipe on a Friday.

Also, from the website of the USCCB:

Q.  I understand that all the Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat, but I’m not sure what is classified as meat.  Does meat include chicken and dairy products?

A.  Abstinence laws consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep or pigs — all of which live on land. Birds are also considered meat. Abstinence does not include meat juices and liquid foods made from meat.  Thus, such foods as chicken broth, consomme, soups cooked or flavored with meat, meat gravies or sauces, as well as seasonings or condiments made from animal fat are technically not forbidden.  However, moral theologians have traditionally taught that we should abstain from all animal-derived products (except foods such as gelatin, butter, cheese and eggs, which do not have any meat taste).  Fish are a different category of animal.  Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, (cold-blooded animals) and shellfish are permitted.

That “However” is important, however.

As it goes, I wouldn’t have chicken soup, but I could use some broth to cook my lentils.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Fr. Z's Kitchen and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Cafea Fruor says:

    I always thought chicken broth counted as meat and not OK on Fridays in Lent. Learn something new every day! This makes me hungry–I might make this tonight. I’ve got all these ingredients on hand except the celery. But, for me, that’s no problem. I hate celery, so I am quite happy leaving it out.

  2. Gaetano says:

    This is also good with red lentils.

  3. Charivari Rob says:

    Looks good, Father – I might try that. The lentils by weight – I’m assuming dried. Or are they soaked & drained?

    [Yes, these were dried lentils. I weighed them while dry.]

  4. AAJD says:

    I love lentil soup, and made this version the other day. It is really amazing if you don’t stint on the garlic, lemon, parsley, and good EVO for the gremolata:

  5. Fryer Eric says:

    Good recipe! I’m happy to see you use Cento’s San Marzano tomatoes, that’s a good brand.

    When I worked for a catering company, we used this recipe to make a vegetarian chili of sorts. It was very popular, and is a great comforting and filling meal for Lent. I like to use the proportions of spices given and make a large batch of the spice mixture to use in other things.

  6. Spinmamma says:

    Love lentils. They are also extremely nutritious in any form, but especially sprouted. I too thought chicken broth was forbidden during Lent and, once, when absentmindedly starting soup, I realized I had started with a chicken stock. I stopped, poured the broth out and started over. Good to know I won’t have to repeat that step. Thanks for the recipe.

  7. Gregg the Obscure says:

    i keep dehydrated vegetables, such as folks use while camping. they’re great emergency reserves as they take up little space and have a long shelf life. i find they work well for soups and omelettes in the event i don’t have fresh at the ready. celery is one of such vegetables i keep on hand

  8. APX says:

    Lentils, interestingly enough, were the one food not touched at the grocery store I was at. Dried beans and soup mixes completely gone, lentils, more than abundant.

  9. rcg says:

    Fr.Z, I tend to be strict in my interpretation of meat sourced. As a Catholic I accept the burden obligation that comes with knowledge. [Good for you.] So may I suggest replacing chicken broth with either miso or, preferably, dashi. [For those who have miso or dashi on hand. However, in sorting through my cupboard I later found also some condensed vegetable broth. I hope that would pass your muster.]

  10. That Guy says:

    As “rcg,” I too will continue to abide with the stricter interpretation, though I’m happy to have the matter clarified, especially for post-COVID parish friday soup gatherings when we can cease and desist with the Orwellian “alone-together” hashtag stuff.

    As for vegetable broth, I’ll suggest a great practice I learned from a non-recipe recipe: Keep a gallon-sized ziploc in your freezer to collect the scraps you’d typically toss when prepping vegetables. Onion butts and skins, garlic skins, basil and cilantro stems, celery trimmings, carrot peels and ends, pepper hulls… all that stuff! Boil it up with a handful of kosher salt and peppercorns and the garlic cloves in the heart that are too small to bother with, parmesan rinds, whatever! [That’s a very good idea. Thanks for adding that.]

  11. Charivari Rob says:

    I had a great deal of broth left over after cooking red beans for some recent recipe. Rare (for me) culinary inspiration struck – washed some empty ice cube trays from the cupboard, filled, froze, and now have a zipper bag of broth cubes for wherever they might be useful. [Good idea!]

  12. Charivari Rob says:

    We made this last night, Father.
    We had a couple of chops left over from Sunday dinner’s lamb rack, and decided to take a stab at this to accompany. Had to improvise only a little. Had much less lentil on hand than I thought – only about a quarter of the amount. Filled out most of the rest with a small can of red kidney beans, drained & rinsed, and then some dried (very dried) white navy beans. All the rest of the fresh veg and bay leaf was available, and a 14 oz can of diced fire-roast tomatoes. We went with about 4 cups of veg broth, a cup or so of those bean broth cubes I mentioned, and a couple of those little plastic jigger-size packs of concentrated chicken stock.
    The lentils and red beans did well. We drew out the cooking time some to get the white navy beans to a better texture. The broth ended up a very nice flavor and texture – a bit smoky, almost, and starting to thicken. Served with toasted pita and olive oil.
    It’s a good quantity – the two of us had a bowl each, with enough left over to divide for two more meals. One will go tonight with a couple of small salmon burger patties that would have been a scant meal by themselves (and 24 hours of sitting will give the navy beans a little more help). The other will be frozen for future use when proper accompaniment can be secured from the meat market – that nice smoky broth is just begging for a pork shoulder or a ham hock.

  13. rcg says:

    That Guy is a Boss. I do like roasting veges before simmering and reducing. Doing it on a grill after cooking the dinner is good, too. An smoke it as the mbers die. Simmer and reduce. But it takes a few days to get it finished. ??

Comments are closed.