This is one of my favourite soups from the Centre Region of Italy! The chestnut give a unique almost sweet taste to the stew. Very easy to make and healthy
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil1/4 cup finely chopped onion¼ cup carrots in small cubes1 stick of celery in small cubes3 cloves of garlicFine sea salt1 cup small brown lentils, such as castelluccio or colfiorito1 tablespoon tomato paste3 bay leafs20 chestnuts (fresh baked)3 leafy sprigs thymeFreshly ground black pepper4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices baguette, toastedFinely chopped fresh basil and/or marjoram for garnish (optional)In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots, celery and pinch salt; reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add lentils and tomato paste; stir to combine, then add 4 cups water and bay leaf. Bring just to a boil, then reduce to a very gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes.Meanwhile, coarsely chop 12 chestnuts. In a large skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil and thyme over medium heat until oil is shimmering. Add chopped and whole chestnuts; cook, stirring occasionally, until chestnuts are lightly golden, about 5 minutes.When lentils have cooked 25 minutes, add chopped chestnuts and pan contents into pot with lentils. Continue cooking until lentils are tender, 10 to 15 minutes more. Season soup with 1/4 teaspoon salt and generous pinch pepper, then ladle soup into serving bowls. Tuck whole chestnuts and toasts into soup. Garnish with fresh herbs, if using.