Italian lentil and chestnut stew

by admin on March 26, 2009 · 37 comments

Post image for Italian lentil and chestnut stew

This lentil and chestnut stew is a traditional dish in Italy and the epitome of the Mediterranean diet in Winter.  The main ingredients here are lentils and many different vegetables, with porcini mushrooms for a depth and chestnuts for a hint caramel sweetness.   I use pretty lenticche umbre (you can see their gorgeous colours in the photograph) but any lentil that holds its shape will do such as green or puy lentils.

The finished dish keeps well in the fridge or freezer and is wonderfully versatile; I cook up a really big batch of this ready to serve in a variety of ways.

Serving suggestions

  • Serve with a simple bruschetta; sliced bread rubbed with garlic, lightly toasted and topped with a drizzle of olive oil.
  • For additional luxury, top your bruschetta with cheese and grill until melting (the strong flavour of stilton works well).
  • Mix a helping of the stew with additional hot water, vegetable stock and / or canned tomatoes to make a rustic soup. Stir in a swirl of balsamic vinegar before eating.
  • Cook a batch of pasta in boiling water (chestnut flour pasta is lovely if you can find it).  While the pasta cooks, scoop out a little of the cooking water with a mug. Drain the pasta and return it to the hot pan, tossing it with a little olive oil, a small handful of grated parmesan and a slosh of the retained cooking water.  Top a serving of the glossy, coated pasta with a ladle of the stew and a sprinkling of parsley.
  • Scoop a ladleful of stew over a fluffy baked potato.
  • Eat it on its own with a grating of cheese on top.

lentils and chestnuts

I must admit that I’ve struggled a bit to get to grips with slow cooking, mainly adjusting to the much lower amount of liquid needed in the slow cooker.  This stew has been by far the most successful slow cooker recipe I have cooked so far, working perfectly first time.  There’s no reason why you shouldn’t make this on the hob in a lidded pan. If you want to try this I suggest using the rule of thumb that slow cooking only requires half the liquid of conventional cooking. Start off by adding an additional 400ml of fluid (low sodium vegetable stock) and add more if required. Simmer gently for an hour to an hour and a half.  
lentil and chestnut stew ingredients

Recipe for Italian lentil and chestnut stew

See article for notes on cooking on the hob. I use vacuum packed cooked chestnuts.

Makes a big batch, ready to use in numerous ways

1 large carrot, finely diced
2 sticks celery, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
Lenticchie umbre or other lentils, 350g (about 2 cups)
250ml red wine (about a cup)
150g cooked chestnuts (1 cup), roughly chopped
A small handful dried porcini mushrooms
2 bayleaves
A sprig rosemary, leaves pulled from stem
1 tbsp cranberry sauce (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Hot water

Cover the porcini mushrooms with 250ml freshly boiled water. Leave to soak for at least half an hour.  

Warm the olive oil in a large pan on the hob.  Saute the garlic, onions, leek, carrot and celery for ten minutes on a low heat to lightly soften.

Remove the porcini mushrooms from the water and finely chop them, retaining the soaking water.  

Put the sauteed vegetables into the slow cooker. Add the rest of the listed ingredients plus the retained soaking liquid from the mushrooms and an additional 250ml of water.

Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Slow cook for 7 hours.


Elaine March 26, 2009 at 22:34

This post — photos, your writing, the recipe — scores 11 out of 10. Wonderful — interesting, informative, and mouth-watering.
I really appreciate your slow-cooker modifications. Very helpful.

Arwen from Hoglet K March 27, 2009 at 02:37

It’s great to have a vegetarian recipe for a slow cooker. So many of them seem to use very fatty meat. I love porcini and lentils, but I’ve rarely had chestnuts. It sounds like a good combination though.

Ricki March 27, 2009 at 03:57

This does sound spectacular! I’ve recently “discovered” chestnuts and now can’t wait to give this a try. :)

Christie @ Fig & Cherry March 27, 2009 at 11:30

Absolutely beautiful! I love the idea of eating it over a baked potato, especially with a nice crispy skin. Delish!

Christie @ Fig & Cherry March 27, 2009 at 11:30

Absolutely beautiful! I love the idea of eating it over a baked potato, especially with a nice crispy skin. Delish!

Christie @ Fig & Cherry March 27, 2009 at 11:30

Absolutely beautiful! I love the idea of eating it over a baked potato, especially with a nice crispy skin. Delish!

Wendy March 27, 2009 at 11:51

Gosh, that first photo with the lentils and the stilton has me salivating madly. Wish to goodness I had this with me for lunch today. Might make it for dinner tonight topped with a couple of the venison sausages we have in the fridge…
Also love the idea of using chestnuts in the stew. Sound like a perfect match for lentils.

Sophie March 27, 2009 at 18:01

Thank you very much Elaine. Very kind words, as always. This is the first slow cooker I’ve featured here so I’m pleased that you and Arwen have both piped up to say that you are pleased to see one.
Arwen, I agree with you very much on this. I’ve really struggled to find good vegetarian slow cooker recipes and I started very early on the strategy of
Ricki – chestnuts are an absolute favourite of mine (only discovered them a couple of years ago).
A crispy skinned potato would be perfect Christie, in fact this is exactly what we’re having for lunch tomorrow.
Wendy – the recipe is really good as packed lunch to take to work, but it would be divine with venison sausages. If you try cooking it on the hob do let me know how you get on with timings and fluid quantities etc.

johanna March 27, 2009 at 18:45

this looks amazing and so indulging! the perfect dish to (hopefully) see off the winter… if i could eat this type of food every day, i think winter would be welcome even!

kathryn March 27, 2009 at 21:04

Lovely recipe Sophie and I’m so glad you’ve used chestnuts – as they’re an ingredient I never quite know what to do with.
Each year they come into season. There are a few weeks when they’re incredibly cheap, so I buy a bagful – full of good intentions. Only to end up roasting them, as I did the year before and the year before. However, this is exactly the kind of thing I’d make.
And I like the idea of a bit of toast with stilton on top, very luxurious.

Johanna March 28, 2009 at 01:51

this sounds like a great recipe as the days get cooler here – I wonder if any of the local stores sell chestnuts – and could I cook it in a very low oven as I don’t have a slow cooker but it looks good enough to try anyway!

Sophie March 28, 2009 at 11:14

Sophie, I adore lentils!! this dish looks stunningly yummie!! Love the colours too!

Girl Interrupted Eating March 28, 2009 at 11:57

This looks and sounds delicious , never think of using chestnuts outside Christmas

Erin March 30, 2009 at 08:07

This looks amazing — I can’t wait to try it! The chestnuts would contribute a lovely “meaty” flavour to the recipe (without actually being meaty at all), I imagine? I will definitely put this on my “to cook” list :)

Monica Shaw March 30, 2009 at 09:04

I’ve made a similar soup from Chocolate and Zucchini, but hers didn’t include the mushrooms. That sounds heavenly. And your pictures are gorgeous!

Sam March 30, 2009 at 22:59

This looks perfect for colder weather. It’s great to have something different to make in my slow cooker too, I only ever use mine for meat.

Wendy March 31, 2009 at 08:33

Tried this out last night. Don’t have a slow cooker so did it on the stove top. It was absolutely divine. Loved the chestnuts in it particularly. The only adjustment I made was to use bramble jelly rather than cranberry and to add a dash of balsalmic vinegar at the end to counter the sweetness. God, feel like such a ponce saying “counter the sweetness” but there you go. :)
As for the liquid, I added enough to begin with to just cover the lentils then checked every 10 mins to make sure there was just enough liquid for the lentils to still be simmering without being soup. Overall I used about 700ml of liquid – both stock and a glass of wine.

Making Love In The Kitchen March 31, 2009 at 14:19

This looks so warm and delicious. A perfect meal when this cool Spring wind is still blowing. I will certainly be trying this one.

jd April 4, 2009 at 00:49

That pic is really gorgeous!
I love the lentils, and my bf is drooling over the cheese :)

Sophie April 5, 2009 at 17:12

Thanks Johanna – this does feel like an indulgent dish, yet it’s actually really cheap to make and full of healthy ingredients
Kathryn – I first made (and photographed) this just after Christmas, hence the stilton toasts and cranberry sauce. Both worth buying just for this though.
Johanna – you could definitely cook this in a very low oven (with a little extra fluid), or see Wendy’s comment a little further down about making it on the hob
Thanks Sophie!
Becky – I love chestnuts so I buy lots of vacuum packed ones while they are easy to get hold of around Christmas
Erin – the chestnuts are a little bit meaty tasting as are the porcini mushrooms. It’s one of those dishes you can give to die-hard meat eaters and they won’t feel deprived
Monica – glad you like the pics. I’ll have to have a look at the C&Z soup
Hi Sam – I’ve had trouble finding decent veggie slow cooker recipes too!
Thanks so much for reporting back Wendy! I sometimes add a dash of balsamic vinegar to this too for exactly the reason you’ve said (I don’t think there is a non-food poncy way of putting it!)
Making Love in The Kitchen – hope you enjoy if you try
jd – gooey cheese is my secret tactic for getting my boy to eat lentils without protest :-)

Kim da Cook April 7, 2009 at 07:55

I am not a vegetarian but this is really a wonderful dish. Would have to try it, and especially now that winter is approaching.
Thanks for sharing this with us.

Sue | Cater April 8, 2009 at 12:00

I don’t think that this dish is just for the vegetarian’s out there but this can be used as a side dish as well, an alternative to having a starch.
I just love lentils and this is a great and different way of doing them.

Kevin April 10, 2009 at 01:00

I like the sound of using chestnuts in a stew. It looks really good!

Melanie Thomassian April 10, 2009 at 10:01

Hi Sophie,
This looks gorgeous! I agree with Sue, I think it would also make a wonderful side dish as an alternative to rice or other starches. The photos look really professional too – thanks for sharing!

MsGourmet April 15, 2009 at 09:01

Oh Yum!

Joan Nova April 15, 2009 at 12:59

I never heard of adding chestnuts, but I love it! And I certainly never would have thought about adding cranberry sauce!

Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food. April 18, 2009 at 20:11

Sophie, this looks so beautiful. I love adding porcini to dishes or a little bit of bacon, or some other secret ingredient that makes the dish tatse so much better and adds more depth to it, like you say.

brii April 19, 2009 at 16:40

ciaooo sophie…
this is a perfect dish to make with the pressure cooker.
must try it!! :)
love the idea of lentils and chestnuts!
I wish to thank joan for giving me the hint to come over look at this recipe! :))

Marta April 20, 2009 at 15:15

Oh wow, this just looks so comforting and heart-warming. I’m bookmarking it right now! Italian foods just win me over every time! Thanks for sharing this great recipe :)

kathryn May 25, 2009 at 22:52

Sophie, I finally made your lentil and chestnut stew last night and gosh it’s wonderful. Great flavours and love the delicious, rich tasting gravy which forms.
I didn’t time mine exactly, but it was over an hour (on the stovetop). I’d say I added a bit more liquid than Wendy – about a litre – and I also added the balsamic she suggests.
I reckon next time I’d try cooking it in the oven. I often cook lentils this way, and after the initial saute I think just put it in the oven at about 180C and it would cook away beautifully.
It’s a lovely use of chestnuts – thank you!
PS. I also used your blue cheese on toast serving suggestion – YUM

Lucy July 1, 2009 at 00:35

Oh. MY. GOD!
Sophie…it’s delicious. Not that I doubted you for even a millisecond, but, urged on by Kathryn some time ago, I finally had a go last night (in the oven, as per her comment above). In lieu of stilton (oh, yum) I used a smear of incredibly stinky goat’s cheese on thin wholemeal toasts…what can I say? It’s a beautiful, ‘meaty’ vego stew. Deeply satisfying.
Thank you.

Beth July 9, 2009 at 19:51

I made this stew this evening, and I have to say it is awesome.
Coming home to a house smelling delicious is always a treat, but then sitting down to a bowl of gorgeousness made my week. :)
It’s quite filling, and does make a large batch, so bonus points for costing hardly anything to make and getting many, many meals out of it!
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