You can use regular paprika, but the smoked paprika is superb. The soup is plenty flavorful on its own, but a dollop of Greek yogurt or light sour cream and a little chopped fresh cilantro doesn’t hurt one bit.
3 ounces pancetta, cut into small dice
1 large onion, cut into medium dice
2 medium carrots, cut into medium dice
1 celery stalk, cut into medium dice
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoon paprika (preferably smoked)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup white wine
2 quart chicken broth
1 pound lentils
Salt and ground black pepper
Cook pancetta in a large soup kettle over medium-high heat until fat renders and it starts to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onions, carrots and celery; sauté until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, paprika, and cayenne; sauté until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add wine, continue to cook another minute or so. Add broth and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until lentils are just tender, about 30 minutes, adding water as necessary for a thick but not gloppy soup, Pour about half the soup in a blender; puree until smooth. Return soup to pot; simmer over low heat, stirring frequently and adjusting seasonings, including salt and pepper to taste, until heated though. Serve.