Heat a large pot over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutes until crisped. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off all but two teaspoons of the bacon fat, add the onions and carrots, and stir occasionally for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, rice and thyme, and stir occasionally for the 3 more minutes. Add the wine, if using, and stir for one minute until almost evaporated. Add the salt (about ¼ teaspoon if you’re using bacon and cheese, ¾ teaspoon if not), pepper, tomatoes, lentils, half the reserved bacon, and the chicken broth and stir to combine.
Simmer uncovered over medium-low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and the rice are tender. Feel free to add more liquid if you like a thinner soup (the next day thee soup will likely have thickened considerably; and you may want to thin with more water and broth at this point, as you reheat).
Serve in bowls with the rest of the bacon and a sprinkle of Parmesan on top, if desired.
Where to Buy Lentils
You can buy French (Le Puy) or Italian lentils at specialty food stores, some supermarkets, and online. They are smaller, hold their shape better, and have wonderful flavor. But regular lentils will do just fine!