Esau’s Lentil Soup

Almost everyone knows the story of Esau’s Lentil soup: surely you remember from Hebrew school or church the tale of that guy in the Bible who sold his birthright to his brother Jacob in exchange for a plate of lentils. However, no one knows exactly how that dish, delicious to the point of being worth more than the many rights that in Biblical times were reserved for a firstborn son, was made.

Minestra di Esaù - Esau's lentil soup

Jews of the ancient Italian-Tuscan Jewish communities tried to imagine how this well-known lentil dish could be prepared: their recipe follows.

The traditional Italian version of Esau’s Lentil Soup that I explain below requires meatballs; these, however, can be substituted with dehydrated soya chunks, lentil meatballs, or even completely omitted, if you want to prepare a vegetarian version.

Before we start with the recipe, I’m also going to state the obvious now, just in case you forgot, and remind you that tomato seeds were first brought from Mexico to Spain (from where the plant also then spread to Italy) in the early 16th century, so yes, clearly the “original” Esau soup would not have included tomatoes, but Italians in the Renaissance grew a fond interest in this fruit, so they added it to this and many other culinary creations.

Minestra di Esaù

Esau's Lentil Soup

No ratings yet
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Primo
Cuisine Ebraica
Servings 6


  • 500 g of lean ground beef
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 carrots, diced, for the sautéed vegetables
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped, for the sautéed vegetables
  • 1 onion, minced, for the sautéed vegetables
  • 250 g coarse ground tomato puree or tomato pulp
  • 5 cups of water
  • 300 g dried lentils, previously rinsed
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 laurel leaves
  • parsley (optional)
  • salt
  • pepper


  • Mix the ground meat with a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper, forming very small meatballs.
    500 g of lean ground beef, salt, pepper
  • In a frying pan with a high edge or a saucepan, sautée the veggies in a little bit of olive oil, then cook the meatballs in the same pan, browning them well over high heat for about ten minutes.
    4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 carrots, diced, for the sautéed vegetables, 1 stalk of celery, chopped, for the sautéed vegetables, 1 onion, minced, for the sautéed vegetables
  • The crushed garlic should be added raw when the dish is cooked, but if this idea does not thrill you, you can add it to the sautéed vegetables.
    1 garlic clove
  • Pour the tomato puree or pulp into the pot and let it simmer for 5 minutes, then add the water, a teaspoon of salt, and continue cooking the meatballs in the sauce. After the water begins to boil, add lentils and laurel leaves, then cover the soup and let it cook over low heat for a good half hour.
    250 g coarse ground tomato puree or tomato pulp, 5 cups of water, 300 g dried lentils, previously rinsed, 2 laurel leaves, salt
  • Remove the pot from the heat, and check if the lentils are cooked. If necessary, you can add water and continue cooking them, but without exceeding, otherwise they will be overdone and mushy. Sprinkle with parsley before serving, if desired.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

I like to prepare this soup for Shabbat because it keeps well for a long time and can be reheated without issues, but you get bonus points if it’s the Shabbat when we read Genesis 25:29–34, the episode of the Bible in which the encounter between the twins Jacob and Esau is described.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Rating della ricetta