This soup, from "Soups of Italy," is said to be from the Abruzzi region. If fresh chestnuts are not available, vacuum-packed or canned chestnuts may be substituted. Pancetta is cured, not smoked bacon.
Combine the water, salt, bay leaves and lentils in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until tender, about 1 hour.
About 10 minutes before the lentils have finished cooking, in a separate heavy saucepan, combine the oil, pancetta and basil and saute over medium-low heat. Add the chestnuts and herbs and saute, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and wine and cook until evaporated, about 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir the entire mixture into the cooked lentils and cook for 10 minutes more. If needed, add a little water and salt and pepper to taste.
Poll: Which 2013 Taste Holiday Cookie Contest entry do you most want to try?