My mom found a version of this recipe in a woman’s magazine (she can’t recall which one) and started making it not too long after my sister and I started eating solid food. She was 24, home with twins, overwhelmed and without a driver’s license. The ingredients for what we have always called “mama soup” are ones most home cooks keep on hand.
As she says, “Anything you could throw in a pot that tasted so good was right up my alley.” She still makes it today, as do I. I started making Mama Soup in college with the encouragement of my maternal grandmother who used to send me $25 a month she called “soup money.” The diced butternut squash is my modern addition for more fall flavor and nutritional depth.
- 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
- 1½–2 quarts water (approximately) or vegetable soup stock
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
- ½ cup barley
- 2 cups butternut squash*, diced fine
- ½ cup onion, chopped
- 2 ribs celery with leaves, coarsely chopped
- 2–3 carrots, chopped or sliced
- 1 large white baking potato, peeled and diced fine
- 2 tablespoons parsley, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
- 1/8–¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 15-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes, diced (optional)
- Place all ingredients, including optional fire roasted tomatoes, in a large stock pot and cook over high heat. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 hour or until lentils, barley and vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add more liquid if too thick.
- *Tip: Buy the pre-peeled and cut butternut squash available in most grocery stores. You will have to cut it into smaller pieces, but most of the hard work is done.