Spicy Lentil Soup with Sweet Potato Gnocchi

This weekend my husband and I are both under the weather.  Bob has the flu and I had a root canal, neither pleasant or fun.   We made the decision Friday to stay home this weekend and forego our visit to Queens.  Neither of us want my dad or mom to catch the flu and my mouth is still sore from my date with an endodontist.

I look forward all week to cooking on the weekend and even though eating is hard right now, I need to prep meals for the week.   I cooked a few meals for lunch and dinner for the week and made a nice pot of soup for the two of us for today.   It was a perfect day for cooking, dreary, rainy and quiet.

When I was a kid my mother always made lentil soup.  It was in her weekly rotation of meals.  I was not crazy about lentil soup back then.  In our house you were not allowed to leave the table until your plate was empty.  When my dog Pierre was alive this was no problem, as I merely put it on the floor while mom was busy washing dishes.   Pierre was my childhood dog,  a black French Poodle that was bought by scraping together our money.   My brother George paid the most, as he was the oldest and had a coin collection we could cash in.

The dogs of 72nd Street – Loretta & Rusty, Lianne & Rumple and Me & Pierre

Pierre wasn’t always the nicest dog to others, but he was sweet with me and he always ate what I didn’t like.  He lived for 16 years, happily eating all the foods I hated.  After he passed away it became tougher for this picky eater to finish her food.   I remember many a stand-off at the dinner table over finishing my lentil soup.  Who knew that all these years later it would become one of my favorites.

A few years ago, as an adult, I had a small bowl of lentil soup when out to lunch at Carrabba’s.  This version was so different from the plain lentil soup I grew up on.   It was super spicy and had a great kick to it.   After that lunch, I experimented to get my lentil soup to taste similar.   The recipe I use today is as close as I can get it.  It’s hearty, spicy and just what we needed today.   I paired it with homemade sweet potato gnocchi, adapted from my cousin’s husband Pete’s recipe shared last week.   Usually, I serve this soup with small pasta noodles but wanted something a little heartier today, aka comfort food.   It was quite delicious!

Spicy Lentil Soup


  • 1 medium Yellow onion chopped
  • 1 cup carrots chopped
  • 1 stalk celery chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 2-3 hot Italian sausage links (removed from casing)
  • 1  ham steak cubed
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 small can Muir organic diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups dry lentils
  • 1/2 tbsp basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • ¼ tsp. thyme
  • Red pepper flakes


  1. Pour a glass of Chardonnay and turn on Alexa for dancing in the kitchen. F737CB1E-B104-4EAF-993A-DA29A6E86892
  2. Remove hot sausage from casing and break apart in soup pan using wooden spatula.  Cook until brown then remove from pot.
  3. In same pot, sauté onion, carrot and celery over medium heat in olive oil 4 minutes until tender.
  4. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add the chopped ham, can of tomatoes, water, chicken broth, vinegar and lentils.5BEB173E-FA8A-49BD-9C40-FA71AC404468
  6. Add salt, pepper, basil and thyme and stir.
  7. Bring to boil.
  8. Reduce heat and simmer until the lentils are tender. About 60 minutes.
  9. Serve immediately.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi


  • 4 Sweet potatoes halved
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups flour
  • salt to taste


  1. Boil sweet potatoes until soft.
  2. Rice into large bowl using potato ricer.
  3. Add eggs, salt and flour48639EC5-7432-43AD-9666-3C8E52BDDA43
  4. Mix with hands until it no longer sticks. Add flour as needed.
  5. Roll pieces into tubular shape the size of your finger and cut into one inch pieces. 7EBAAB62-FC90-420D-BDAC-41DAF51460E0
  6. Boil in salted water until they rise to top of water, under 10 minutes.
  7. Serve on top of bowl of lentil soup.

E2A15A4F-1A37-41CE-9256-EC2A2BCA6351Stir together and sprinkle with fresh Parmesan.  This makes enough to freeze, or eat for lunch during the week.  Either way, it’s delicious.

Do you have a recipe to share?   Would you like to have your family recipe featured?   Contact me to discuss sharing your favorite recipe on a future blog.  It’s a great way to honor your loved ones.

Pete’s Lemon Basil Chicken with Gnocchi

My grandmother Catherine married very young and by the age of 17 had two children.  When her parents passed away, she took in her younger brother George who became more like a brother to my dad than an uncle.   When Uncle George married my Aunt Rose, they moved into the apartment directly across the hall from my Nanny.  Literally, their doors faced each other and you could walk across the hall in two steps.  Aunt Rose and Uncle George had two daughters, my cousins Kathleen and Rosemarie.  Kathleen and I were the same age and graduated from the same high school.

Aunt Rose, Uncle George, Kathleen & Rosemarie

I have so many fond memories of family life on Seneca Avenue in Ridgewood, NY.  My family was all in the same building, with other family members living in the next building over.  It was so cool to be able to roam the apartment building and visit different homes during our many visits.  I liked the sense of freedom we had there as a kid that I just didn’t have living in our one family home.  With all apartments in the same building, there was no need for us kids to go outside to visit each other.  This made our parents feel secure and we were allowed to go across the hall and downstairs to my Aunt Catherine’s apartment.

Kathleen married her husband Pete and for many years they lived in the neighborhood.  When Pete retired, they returned to his homeland of Italy and have lived there ever since.

Kathleen & Pete, Italy

Kathy and Pete live in Lucca, Italy these days and have quite a beautiful place with a huge parcel of land.  Pete has an extensive garden which is quite impressive and grows most of his own produce.

Pete in his garden


Most recipes Pete cooks use ingredients fresh from his garden, including tomatoes when making Sunday sauce.  This chicken recipe calls for dried basil and lemon and is quite simple to make.  The result is a light, refreshing lemon chicken sauce that will leave you wanting more.  Pete’s recipe called for bowties and broccoli, which I substituted for his homemade gnocchi recipe and peas.  This substitution fit what I had in the house and personally, I thought the peas would add a nice sweetness to the dish.  It was delicious and light, leaving us feeling full but not bloated.  I can’t wait to see how this tastes tomorrow when I eat the leftover for lunch.

This recipe is simple enough for a weeknight meal, taking about 30 minutes from start to finish.  The gnocchi obviously adds more time, but is so worth it!  I hope you give this one a try.

Pete’s Lemon Basil Chicken with Gnocchi


  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • ¾ tsp dried basil
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ½ lb bow tie pasta or homemade gnocchi
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets or fresh peas
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (I used 1/8 c and 1/8 c chicken broth to soften the lemon taste)
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste


1. Pour a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and turn on Alexa for dancing in the kitchen.420B3D4B-CBB6-4F04-B31E-642EE4916B5D

2.Fill a large pot half full of water then bring to a boil over high heat. While you wait for the water to boil, season chicken breasts on both sides with salt, pepper and dried basil then set aside.E4B810C1-4543-44F3-87D0-06A495F4B039

3.When the water reaches a rolling boil, add a large pinch of salt then cook pasta, or gnocchi, according to directions—until it is tender but still firm. Roughly 2 minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, add broccoli florets, or peas to the pot, allowing them to boil with the pasta for the remaining cook time and before draining everything in a colander. After draining, return the pasta and broccoli to the pot to keep it warm.

3.Place a skillet over medium heat then add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add chicken breasts then allow to cook until golden brown on both sides and cooked all the way through—about 8–10 minutes depending on thickness. When the chicken breasts are cooked through, transfer them to a plate and set aside to cool slightly.

4.Reduce the heat to medium-low then add garlic to the oil that remains in the skillet. Cook for about 1 minute to soften the garlic slightly. Remove the skillet from heat then add lemon zest and juice. Using a wooden scraper, scrape any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan then pour the sauce over the pasta and broccoli.

5.Chop the slightly cooled chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks then add them to the pot—stirring gently to combine. Sprinkle the entire mixture with Parmesan cheese then stir gently once more to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper then serve immediately. Enjoy!

This dish has a strong lemon flavor. If lemon’s not your thing and you would like to tone it down a notch, leave the zest in but replace the lemon juice with chicken broth. This will give it just a slight hint of lemon.  I did 1/8 c lemon juice and 1/8 c chicken broth and found it to be just perfect.



  • 2 cups of FLOUR
  • 8 medium POTATOES
  • 2 EGGS
  • SALT


  6. CUT APPROXIMATELY 1 INCH PIECES OFF THE STRIPS.  (I didn’t get fancy with the cutting as they taste just as good shaped like soft pillows.  You can press them, or shape them any way you’d like.)10B99899-5FF6-4891-AF5C-15A06901C42D

Serve chicken and pea sauce over gnocchi and top with fresh parmesan cheese to taste.


Recipe Swap – Gluten Free Gnocchi

Sunday sauce and recipe testing just plain go together. Especially on a chilly, rainy Sunday with nothing to do. I am always looking for ways to make this staple meal healthier. I am not gluten intolerant, but do try to limit the amount of food I eat that contain gluten. Pasta is the first swap I made and I rarely eat pasta that contains gluten. This week’s recipe swap is a delicious, easy to make version of gluten free gnocchi.

Gnocchi are soft dumplings that can be made from semolina, potato or various other combinations of ingredients. The recipe I made today was gluten free and delicious. It was a big hit and the texture was for me perfect. Had I not made them myself I wouldn’t have known they were gluten free. I hope you give them a try.

Gluten Free Garlic Gnocchi


  • 1 cup ricotta cheese, strained
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 clove roasted garlic (optional)
  • 3/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 2 tbsp xantham gum


  1. Strain ricotta cheese in a fine mesh sieve over a bowl for 30 minutes.  Drying out the cheese will ensure your gnocchi are not too dense. (*Mine really didn’t have liquid in it but I did this step in case.)
  2. Roast garlic in a ramekin with olive oil at 250 ̊F (Chop the tops off one clove of garlic but leave the remaining shell on.)  Allow it to cool and then squeeze the garlic clove from the bottom and work your fingers up, pushing out the roasted cloves. Set half of the cloves aside for sauce (or another recipe).
  3. Mix all ingredients together to form a dough. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more flour. You want the dough to come together to form a ball but not be too dry or stiff, just easy enough to work with and roll without getting stuck to the table!
  4. Cut the dough into 4 sections and roll the first section on a lightly floured surface (using rice flour for gluten-free) into a long log about 1/2 inch thick.
  5. Use a small paring knife to cut the log into 1 inch sections.
  6. Roll the gnocchi with a fork or gnocchi board to create indentations or simply set the gnocchi pieces aside on a foil lined tray.
  7. Continue this process with the remaining dough.
  8. If you will be using the gnocchi later, wrap the tray and keep refrigerated until you are ready to use.
  9. In a large pot, bring water to boil then add half the gnocchi to the boiling water (cooking the gnocchi in batches will prevent it from sticking together). Boil the gnocchi for about 3 minutes or until they float on the surface of the water.
  10. Strain and eat immediately.

*Recipe base on one shared by Integrative Nutrition with substitution of one ingredient

Happily this made enough for my family of three with some leftover for today.  If you have a large family I’d suggest doubling the recipe.  Not sure how they will reheat yet, but I’m sure they will be just fine.  I didn’t bother rolling the gnocchi on my fork to make the dents, but I included those instructions should you want to do so.  For me the soft pillowy clouds were just fine as is.

Please let me know if you try them how you like!  If you have a recipe you’d like to share for an upcoming blog, please let me know in the comments and I’ll contact you directly.

Ingredients used:

Bob’s Red Mill Sweet White Rice Flour – 24 oz

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Xanthan Gum, 8-ounce



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