Soup with Cod and Swiss Chard

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Sburrita

Sburrita finish with script

Buon giorno!

Today we travel to the island of Elba for a simple and healthy soup called SBURRITA or for our purposes –  SOUP WITH COD AND SWISS CHARD. This is a delicious and lighter soup which is traditionally made with salt cod and the lovely sweeter green, swiss chard.

About Elba: Elba is an island located between the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas, which is actually part of Tuscany  – more specifically in the province of Livorno. The island is noted as the first area of exile  in 1814 for the French Emperor Napoleon I, who was “parked “there by the British following his devastating defeat. In the late 1800’s, Elba became part of the Duchy of Tuscany and then came under the umbrella of the Kingdom of Italy.

The Livornese are known for their use of salt cod in soups and sauces. Using the salt cod is always preferable in soup, as it does not flake as easily as fresh cod. However, in this soup, you may use the fresh, knowing that the fish will flake but will still provide an abundance of flavor. If using the the salt cod, the recipe includes a link to instructions for soaking. The SBURRITA is also traditionally made with plenty of garlic, swiss chard, and plenty of fresh mint. However, in this recipe, I have used enough garlic for flavor and just a couple of sprigs of mint and more fresh thyme. The flavors blend well to provide a beautiful soup. You will love how quickly this soup comes together. It is not an all day project!

Italians, in general, love using greens in their soups. As a young girl, many dinners in our home revolved around some sort of greens. Sometimes it was greens and beans. Often, it was a minestra containing a ham bone.

With this soup, you enjoy the very authentic Tuscan version of a milder soup using cod and swiss chard. You can use the rainbow chard with the colorful stalks or the silverbeet . Swiss chard is a wonderful green – slightly more flavorful than spinach but one of the sweeter greens used in Italian cooking. Even the non-green eaters in your home should like the chard.

The best part of this soup is the ingredient that brings heartiness to the dish – the bread! As with many Italian soups and stews, toasted bread is served at the bottom of the bowl as a kind of platform. The soup softens the bread and it all comes together to form a soothing flavorful dish which is traditionally Italian in every way.

SOUP WITH COD AND SWISS CHARD

(SBURRITA)

Serves: 6

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 30-40 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Fresh or Salt Cod – if using salt cod- try the instructions for soaking HERE

 The fresh cod is fine but will flake more than the salt cod. Either way!

1/4 Cup Olive Oil

1 large bunch Swiss Chard – rainbow or silverbeet (regular)

3 Cloves fresh garlic – you can chop finely or add whole cloves.

1 Tbsp. fresh Thyme – chopped

2 sprigs of mint

Pinch red pepper flakes

8 c. Vegetable Broth

3 Yukon Gold Potatoes cut up and peeled

Slices of Crusty bread – brushed with olive oil and toasted under broiler in oven

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving

Salt and pepper

Instructions

In a deep pot, saute garlic for a minute in olive oil to infuse.

Clean the swiss chard by rinsing with cold water a few times, drain, and cut up.

Sburrita 1 Swiss chard

Cut up the cod and add to the pot along with the swiss chard, herbs, potatoes, and red pepper.

Sburrita 2Sburrita 3

Cook about 5 minutes tossing gently in the oil.

It will seem like a lot of greens, but they cook down fairly quickly and reduce greatly.

Then add the broth, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are fork tender.

Correct your seasoning by adding salt and pepper as needed.

To serve this beautiful SOUP WITH COD AND SWISS CHARD  or SBURRITAplace a slice of the toasted bread in each dish. Ladle the soup over the bread, and offer the grated cheese.

Sburrita finish on bread

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Chicken Soup with Escarole and Little Meatballs

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Italian Wedding Soup? Really?

Escarole Soup finish with script -

Buon giorno!

So often in Italian cooking, you’ll find a dish with many different names. This is true of Italian Chicken Soup. In our house, it was called simply CHICKEN SOUP WITH ESCAROLE AND LITTLE MEATBALLS nothing fancy – just plain old chicken soup which came to life with the addition of some greens and little meatballs and may as well have been tiny jewels floating in the bowl. This is the soup that my mother, Loretta, lovingly prepared to cure us, to soothe us, and to comfort us. When I had my own family, and a child was sick, someone in the house was always heard to say, “get the chicken”. There was no magic to it, but there might as well have been as my children seemed to perk up at just the thought of this soup being prepared – simply put – the world’s best medicine. The Nonnas will nod knowingly at this, as they tout chicken soup with pastina as the single most nourishing of foods for their grandbabies, and they, of course, know everything!

I remember also, taking this soup to a friend who was experiencing chemotherapy. My thinking was that she probably might not be able to eat it, but it might bring some comfort and sustenance to her family. After a time, as the friend began to heal, she told me that, during her very difficult struggle, that soup was the only thing she could eat, the only thing she wanted, and it actually did soothe her. I was surprised but happy to think that my mother’s soup still had its magical powers!

As years passed, I began to hear of a soup called “Italian Wedding Soup”. Much to my surprise, it seemed strikingly similar to our “plain old chicken soup” or “escarole soup”. I sort of scratched my head then about the reference to weddings, and to this day, it puzzles me somewhat. In my advancing years, looking back, I remember attending many Italian weddings with all the trimmings – the cookies, the pastries, the various forms of pastas and roasted meats and danced more than my share of “Tarantellas”. Try as I might, I can’t remember eating any form of chicken soup – with or without escarole and meatballs at any of these weddings – no, not one of them. This stuff always fascinates me in terms of Italian cooking lore – how these things get started – whether or not they actually had any meaning – how you can grow up surrounded by great Italian cooks, and yet, have no knowledge of a particular term which the world seems to embrace.

After researching this seemingly enigmatic use of terms, I discovered, much to my great amusement, that I had missed nothing relating to this soup in my Italian upbringing. The term “Italian Wedding Soup” is a misnomer. It is not, and was not traditionally served at weddings, or to the bride, as I read in one account, for “strengthening.” It is a misuse of the original description of the soup as “minestra maritata”. This Italian term means marriage but NOT between two people. It refers to the marriage of the greens and the meat in the soup. How things DO get twisted! Go figure!

This soup is far from difficult to prepare, but it does take a little while. What did they say about Rome not built in a day? So maybe it took two? Sometimes, the best things just take a little extra time.

No matter what you prefer to call it – it is the most delicious and soothing of all Italian soups. Everyone, I suspect makes it a little differently. Let’s look at the way I make it!

CHICKEN SOUP WITH ESCAROLE AND LITTLE MEATBALLS

Makes: a large pot of soup

Prep: about 2 1/2 hours

THE ESCAROLE

1 Large Head of Escarole – found at most grocers – it looks like a lot but it shrinks!

Escarole

Cut off the bottom root end and soak the leaves in cold water to clean. Then drain the water and chop the tender green leaves a little. Set them aside and discard the tough ends.

THE LITTLE MEATBALLS

Soup meatballs

Follow instructions for making the meatballs in the post: MEATBALLS

Because the meatballs are so small – it is probably easier to bake them on a foiled pan in a 325 degree oven for about 10 minutes. You can even make them ahead and freeze them if you like.

Use as many of the little meatballs in your soup as you want.

THE SOUP

Ingredients

1 Whole Fryer Chicken OR 4 Chicken Breast with the Bone in

1 Whole Onion cut into quarters

1/2 Apple (optional but I think it sweetens the broth)

12 Baby Carrots – leave whole

2 Stalks Celery plus some of the tender inner celery leaves

Large Handful of Fresh Italian Parsley

2 Sprigs fresh Thyme

2 Bay Leaves

1 Tsp. Curry Powder (gives beautiful color and a mild hint of spice to the soup)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp. Fresh Lemon Juice

1/2 lb. Tiny pasta cooked separately and set aside – bowties, ditallini, orzo, pastina, small noodles – whatever you like

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese to serve

Instructions

Place the chicken along with all of the other ingredients listed for the soup into a large pot and add enough water to cover all of it.

Escarole Soup 1

Bring it to a boil and then cover and reduce the heat to let the soup simmer for about 1 1/4-1 1/2 hours or until the chicken is so tender that when pierced with a fork, it is falling apart. Oh! The beautiful golden color!

Escarole Soup finish 2 with script

Along the way – you can skim off the froth that develops on the top of the soup with a large spoon and discard.

Remove the chicken to a platter. Discard the bones and skin and reserve the meat. Chop the chicken into small pieces and set aside.

I like to remove the carrots and rinse them slightly to get all the herbs, etc. off and then chop them into little rounds – set aside.

Cool the soup down and then strain it. Discard all the ingredients in the strainer. You should now have a lovely golden soup.

Add salt and pepper to taste and now a Tbsp. of fresh Lemon Juice!

Now add the escarole leaves to the soup and simmer about 25 minutes until tender.

Add the carrots, chicken, meatballs and pasta to the soup.

Serve hot with lots of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

CHICKEN SOUP WITH ESCAROLE AND LITTLE MEATBALLS  – Magic? Only your Nonna knows! Probably not – but there is something about this soup that just makes things seem better!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Sausage and Lentil Stew

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Sausage and Lentil Stew with script

  Buon giorno!

When the winter wind blows, we all look for heartier dishes that will help to warm us up. We used to call them “stick to your ribs” foods! SAUSAGE AND LENTIL STEW is one of those recipes that will warm you inside and out. Italians love their lentils (lenticchie), and it is obvious that sausage is an important ingredient to them as well. When you put them together, the result is a dish that was meant to be.

Lentils

This SAUSAGE AND LENTIL STEW is actually pretty healthy for you. It is filled with ingredients that add to your overall nutrition including fresh spinach!

What makes this one special? If your desire is for a soup – you can add more water to it and there it is! I like it as a stew because I tend to get tired of soups after a while during a hard winter. In particular, as much as I like it, lentil soup gets “old”. This stew will liven things up a little. Unlike many others, this one comes together quickly and does not require a long cook time. It is actually what I like to call, an Italian chili! It is thick, rich, and is truly very “chili-like”! You can add as much heat as you like, depending on your taste. A versatile dish, you can make it vegetarian, if you like. During a recent storm, we relied on it for several days and actually looked forward to the repeat performance every night at dinner time.

This is one you’ll want in your winter arsenal!

SAUSAGE AND LENTIL STEW

Serves: 4-6

Prep: about 15 minutes

Cook: about 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 Chopped Large Onion

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped

1/4 C. Chopped Pancetta (Tip:easier to chop if partially frozen!)

1 Yellow Pepper Chopped ( Use any color  of pepper you like)

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

4 links sliced Italian Sausage – I like a combination of sweet (mild) and hot

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

2 1/2 Cups Cooked Lentils

1  28 oz. Can Whole Tomatoes including liquid– crushed with clean hands – you get a better consistency this way

3/4 C. Water

2 Tbsp. Fresh Chopped Basil

3 –4 Cups Fresh Baby Spinach

2 Cups Cooked Rice

Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

Cook the first 4 ingredients in the olive Oil about 5 minutes at medium high heat to soften.

Add the sausage and cook at medium high for about 8 minutes.

Then add: cooked lentils, red pepper flakes, tomatoes, water, basil, and spinach.

Cook about 4 minutes.

Then add the cooked rice and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to your liking.

DONE! Can this SAUSAGE AND LENTIL STEW get any easier?? It certainly can’t get any tastier. Serve with an Italian beer or a bottle of vino rosso. You and your gang will love this one!

PARLA COME MANGI!

 

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Creamy Tomato Soup

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Tomato Soup finish 6 with script

Buon giorno!

Run – do not walk – to your favorite market and get the ingredients for this one. CREAMY TOMATO SOUP needs to be simmering on your stove ASAP! This soup is so satisfying, tasty, and delicious that your family and friends will be begging you to make it again and again. This is just the best creamy tomato soup!

The ingredients for this soup blend together to create an interesting result. Each one contributes.

The pasta and white wine are optional. I like a just little pasta in this. It makes the soup heartier. For a family meal, it is a nice addition. However, it makes a lovely first course or cream soup course on its own without the pasta as well.  Your choice!

No matter how you choose to serve it, you will be amazed at how easy it is to prepare and how much everyone will love it… and you!

CREAMY TOMATO SOUP

Serves: 4-6

Prep: 10 minutes

Cook: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients

4 Tbsp.Olive Oil

1 Large Onion – chopped

1 Fennel Bulb – chopped

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1/2 C. White Wine or Vermouth – optional

1 Bay Leaf

2 Whole Cloves

1 Slice Orange Rind

3 Tbsp. Fresh Chopped Basil

1 Large Can (28 oz.) Peeled Tomatoes – crushed in blender

4 C. Beef Broth

Salt and Pepper to taste

3/4 –1 Cup Uncooked Small Pasta ( Ditalini, Tiny bows, Orzo, etc.) – optional

2 Tbsp. Butter

1 Cup Heavy Cream

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago Cheese for serving.

Chopped Fresh Basil for garnish.

Instructions

Saute the chopped onion and fennel in the olive oil for about 10 minutes at medium heat.

Tomato Soup 1

Add the garlic and cook a minute or 2 more – do not brown or burn.

Add the wine, if using, and cook down a couple more minutes.

Tomato Soup 2

I like to push the cloves into the orange rind and add that way. It makes for an easy removal of the cloves later.

Tomato Soup 3

Now add the tomatoes, bay leaf, rind with the cloves, basil, broth, and uncooked pasta.

Tomato Soup 4

The pasta will cook in the soup and thicken it slightly.

Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer for about 25 minutes.

Add the butter, and allow it to melt in, stirring.

Remove from heat and let it cool down a minute. Then add the cream. Stir in.

Tomato Soup 5

Remove the Bay Leaf and the Rind with the Cloves and discard before serving.

Serve your CREAMY TOMATO SOUP with grated cheese and garnish with a little fresh basil.

Prepare for sounds of contentment! Take your bow! (Exit Stage Left to the kitchen for another bowl!)

PARLA COME MANGI!

 

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Ciambotta

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Ciambotta - finish wih script

Buon giorno!

This one might tickle an Italian memory or two. CIAMBOTTA!  Put this one on my list of  “favorite things ever”. It is a wonderful vegetable stew that usually made its entrance sometime during the summers at the Calabrisi house, when zucchini and tomatoes were in abundance. It was the kind of thing you could eat pounds of and not tire. It was always an arrow headed straight for my heart when the aroma reached my senses.

What is it? The answer to that is.. it can be several things. It is considered a stew – but it also can be a soup. Traditionally speaking, it is a vegetable stew or concoction that is a very typical Southern Italian dish – sometimes called Ciambotta Napoletana and a healthy example of the Mediterranean Diet. It can be a side dish and you might compare it to the French Ratatouille. It can also be a soup or stew used as an entrée served with crusty bread.  No matter how you serve it, be prepared to have it disappear as the flavors of the ingredients are so perfect together that it is difficult to stop consuming it. Whatever you decide to call it – it’s really good!

Variations: Actually, it can be made with pancetta or even sausage, if you like a little meat or pork flavor. It isn’t necessary, in my opinion.

Fresh tomatoes straight from the garden may be used or canned tomatoes are fine also.

You will find recipes for it using eggplant or beef or other things. I prefer, it to this day, the way Loretta served it – pure, rustic, and simple – no need to gild the lily. To me, it doesn’t seem to need anything else. Some things just don’t need embellishment!

My mother, Loretta, would often remind us that you could add shrimp or Cannellini Beans or even a little pasta in it if you wanted to. As nice as any of that sounded, I never wanted anything else in it. Like Goldilocks, I thought it seemed “just right”  the way she made it.

The way you see it here is the way Loretta, most often served it – no meat, straight from the pot, with crusty Italian bread, usually from DiRienzo’s or Di Lascia’s Bakery in Binghamton, NY, and a little grated cheese. My father usually had some red pepper flakes handy to throw on his dish. He liked the hot stuff!

More good news – CIAMBOTTA can even be made ahead and frozen for later use.

Let the chopping begin!

CIAMBOTTA

Serves: 4 as a main course or 6 as a side dish

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook:  1 hour 10 minutes

Ingredients

3 Medium Zucchini – cleaned and unpeeled – cut coarsely

3 Large Yukon Gold Potatoes – cleaned and unpeeled – cut coarsely

1 Medium Onion – sliced thinly

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1/3 Cup Olive Oil

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Basil

3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Sage

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Parsley

1 Bay Leaf

42 Oz. Chopped Tomatoes with juices

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

1 Cheese Rind – Parmigiano or other ( just a piece for added flavor)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving

Instructions

Ciambotta 1

Put olive oil in a pan and add the zucchini, potatoes, onion, garlic, herbs, and bay leaf – cook and stir – about 10 minutes.

Ciambotta 2

Add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, cheese rind, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Ciambotta 3

Cover and cook on medium heat for about an hour or until the potatoes are fork tender.

When finished – remove the bay leaf and rind if any is left and discard.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve with Crusty Italian Bread and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or your favorite grated cheese.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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April: Minestrone – the Quintessential Spring Soup

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Minestrone-2a-sm_thumb 2

Buon giorno!

MINESTRONE is actually an old timer. It has been around for centuries dating back to the days before even the Roman Empire. The diet at that time was mostly vegetables anyway – with very little meat eaten at all. Later, as the Roman roads expanded and more goods filtered into the area, meat in all forms made its way into the diet, and of course into the soup!

MINESTRONE is considered a peasant soup whose form alters with the change of seasonal vegetables or even your whim. However, the spring vegetables are closely associated with it. You’ll find it on many Italian Easter and spring menus using spring greens and other favorites of the season. Although your minestrone can really be whatever you want it to be, you’ll find certain veggies in most of the ones served – such as beans, greens,potatoes, and carrots. Pasta, in some form, is usually included. This is one healthy soup, as you can imagine, with all of these good veggies swirling around in it. Whether you choose to add meat to yours is up to you. I like to add meat as the resulting flavor is deeper and richer. Of course, my choice for meat for this soup would be some form of pork.

My mother, Loretta, used to make the most amazing minestra, as she called it. In the spring, she would use a ham bone for extra flavor. Often this bone came from the ham she served for New Year’s. She would “squirrel” it away in the freezer until just before Easter when she made her simple minestra with greens – often dandelion greens. Minestra is merely a simple form of MINESTRONE – which by its name meant “big minestra”. And BIG it is, depending on the number of vegetables you care to include.

This recipe for MINESTRONE, though simple, makes a LOT of soup. That’s the beauty of it. You have soup for your meal, soup for the next day, and soup in the freezer for another time. It is flavorful, hearty, and good for you. You’ll be happy you have extra!

MINESTRONE

Makes:  a lot! (freeze some for another day)

PREP: 30 minutes

COOK: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 1/2 – 2 C. Ditalini or Elbow Pasta or another small size pasta shape – cooked separately

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

3 oz. Salt Pork – chopped

1 onion – chopped

15 Baby Carrots – chopped

1 Stalk Celery – chopped

1/2 Red Pepper – chopped

1/2 Yellow Pepper – chopped

1 Crown Broccoli – cut up

1 bunch Kale Leaves– rinsed,  and torn into pieces

4 Oz. Mushrooms – sliced

2 Yukon Gold Potatoes – cubed

1 15 oz.Can Cannellini Beans – rinsed, drained

1 14 oz Can Chopped Tomatoes

64 oz. Chicken or Vegetable Broth

2 C. Water

2 Bay Leaves

1 Piece Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Rind

Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Parsley

2 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Basil

Salt and Pepper to taste

A generous squeeze of a fresh lemon

Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino to serve with it.

Instructions

Saute the salt pork in the olive oil 1-2 minutes.

Add the onion, carrots, celery, red & yellow peppers, broccoli, kale, mushrooms, and potatoes. Cook just a few minutes, stirring.

Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, water, Bay Leaves, Rind, red pepper flakes, and herbs.

Bring to boil and reduce heat to medium low and keep at a  good simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender.

Add the cooked pasta to the soup. Stir.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper and give the soup a generous squeeze from a fresh lemon.

Remove the Bay Leaves as they can cause choking.

Minestrone 1a   sm-2

Yes! It’s that easy folks. Serve your MINESTRONE with plenty of grated cheese on the side. This will serve about 8 people – or divide it up to freeze portions for another day. You’ll be glad you did!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Tuscan White Bean Soup

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Tuscan White Bean Soup_2

Buon giorno!

This soup is way too easy. I should go back to the drawing board and give this a higher level of difficulty so that you will take it seriously. No really! This TUSCAN WHITE BEAN SOUP is very easy. However, it is also incredibly delicious. It has so much flavor and is very hearty although the ingredients are quite simple. It is an example of a very typical Tuscan soup with white beans…except for  a couple of additions that make it just a little bit different.

This soup has the versatility of being a vegetarian soup by using vegetable broth and omitting the meat.

BUT – for those who are looking for that flavor zing that pork brings to any dish, adding the meat will definitely enhance your experience with this soup. You know that “pork thing” that just does “something” to you – that when looking at that piggy directly in the snout – that..that makes you sing of the “voodoo that you do so well”—I digress!  Even with the awkward Cole Porter reference – you know what I’m talking about. Whoo hoo – the flavor! It’s ALL about the flavor. In this one, we get a double whammy with a little salt pork and prosciutto.

As if that wasn’t enough, I have had a touch of orange, in juice, and in a zest garnish, which bring a touch of citrus as well as to compliment the fennel which is a most successful companion to anything orange.

When it’s cold outside, you want heat, hearty, and happy. This soup does all three.

TUSCAN WHITE BEAN SOUP

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. Butter

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 tbsp. Salt Pork – chopped small

1 Bulb Fennel – sliced

1 Medium Onion-chopped

2 cans (15 oz. approx.) Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained ( You can use dried beans – but you are going to puree them anyway.)

5 Cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth

Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes

2 Tbsp. juice from a fresh orange

2 Tbsp. Chopped Parsley

6 Campari Tomatoes – chopped coarsely (not small)

1/4 lb. Prosciutto – chopped

Chopped Fresh Chives and Zest of a fresh orange for garnish

Instructions

Cook the salt pork for a couple of minutes in the Olive Oil and butter.

Bean Soup 3

Add the fennel and onion – Cook 5 minutes more.

Bean Soup 4

Add the beans and broth and stir.

Bean Soup 5

Add the red pepper flakes, orange juice, and parsley.

Bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes.

Bean Soup 6

While the soup is cooking, chop the tomatoes and the prosciutto.

Bean Soup 7

Remove the soup from the heat and cool down.

Using an immersion blender, regular blender, or food processor – puree the soup.

Bean Soup 8

When finished, add the tomatoes and prosciutto to the soup, stir in, and cook 10 minutes more.

Serve hot, garnished with chopped chives and orange zest. (The garnish is not just for color. It adds additional great flavor to this soup!)

Tuscan White Bean Soup_1

Easy enough? Just wait til you taste it!!

This TUSCAN WHITE BEAN SOUP will keep you warm when those temperatures dive!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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January: Soup With Lamb

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Zuppa Con Agnello-

Lamb-Soup

Buon giorno!

“When the weather outside is frightful and the fire is so delightful”, our appetites turn to hearty and warm – but we also like to keep it fairly healthy. At the turn of the new year, food is all about comfort and for me – my favorite soup which is a Tuscan standard – SOUP WITH LAMB or ZUPPA CON AGNELLO.

It’s origins: This soup comes to us from Grosseto in Tuscany where raising sheep is an art form, and the resulting Pecorino cheese, made from sheep’s milk, is the pride of the area.

Why is this simple soup my favorite? When you taste it, you’ll know. This soup is so easy and quick to make you’d think it can’ possibly be that memorable. On the contrary, it is positively luscious in its richness. The ground lamb is the magical ingredient, I think. It has to be. Here’s why! You put the soup together and after tasting you might think – ho hum. Not so fast. Something happens to the soup when it simmers the hour and twenty minutes required. I’m about to tell you what it is. It’s the LAMB! As the soup simmers, the ground lamb emits a rich flavor that takes over and transforms it from a pot of ingredients to something very special.

It is so special that this transformation does not occur if you decide to use ground beef – so don’t! It ‘s the lamb, baby. You can take it to the bank.

While you’re there, you can deposit something else – and that is, that this soup is fairly healthy. It is full of mostly fresh garden ingredients. If you must, you can always add some pasta to it, to make it more hearty, but you really don’t need it. I prefer to serve this soup the Tuscan way with a slice of crusty bread brushed with olive oil and toasted. Now THAT’S goodness!

Oh! And before you ask, yes you CAN make this in your slow cooker!

I think your family and friends will come running back for more when they taste this one. AND – You can assume a smug expression, when you think of how little time and effort went into the making of this amazing soup. One thing I’ll guarantee – it won’t be the only time you’ll make it!

Let me introduce you to my favorite soup.

SOUP WITH LAMB

(ZUPPA CON AGNELLO)

Serves: 6 (approx.)

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 1 hour and 20 minutes

Ingredients

4 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Onion – chopped

4 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

12 Baby Carrots – chopped

2 Stalks Celery – chopped

3 Tbsp. Chopped Fresh Parsley

2 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped

1 lb. Ground Lamb

1 Cup White Wine ( use a nice one and drink the rest with your soup!)

14 oz. Can Tomatoes – chopped

6 Cups Chicken Broth

1 cup of peas ( can be frozen or fresh)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Crusty bread or baguette- sliced, brushed with Olive Oil and toasted on the grill or in the oven

Grated Pecorino Cheese

Instructions

Saute onion, garlic, carrots, celery, parsley, and sage in the olive oil until just tender- about 5-6 minutes.

Lamb Soup 1

Add ground lamb and brown.

Lamb Soup 2

Then add the white wine. Cook in a couple of minutes.

Add the tomatoes, broth, peas, salt and pepper.

Lamb Soup 3

Simmer uncovered for about an hour and 20 minutes.

Serve the SOUP WITH LAMB over a slice of crusty bread, brushed with olive oil, and toasted with plenty of grated Pecorino Cheese. Oh, and a roaring fire can’t hurt!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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November: Wild Mushroom Soup –

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Wild Mushroom Soup best

 

Buon giorno!

In our house, holiday recipes are set in stone. There is always a soup and it is usually of the mushroom variety as a perfect nod to fall. WILD MUSHROOM SOUP is a beautiful addition to any fall meal – especially a holiday one. I love wild mushrooms – any type. This soup combines an earthy blend of the wild ones with leeks to make a simple beautiful soup – appropriate to begin a meal – or as a meal in itself. As an added incentive – you can make it ahead and freeze it.

 

I grew up in a household that actually revered these little funghi. My father, Attilio, made it his personal mission to hunt for as many of the wild mushrooms in the varieties he knew that he could, so that my mother, Loretta, could freeze them for use during the months ahead. He only gathered the ones he was sure of and often went with his friend , Coco, from the First Ward area of Binghamton, who was considered an expert. We loved the wild ones. Read more about Attilio’s wild mushroom hunting in my Wild Mushroom Pizza post.

Wild mushrooms

 

Why wild? There is a difference in flavor – they are a little stronger – and better. There is also a difference in texture. Just bite into one and you’ll see. Fortunately, for all of us today, it is easy to go to most markets where we find so many different varieties available – even the dried kind which are very good when reconstituted. I like a nice variety of the wild mushrooms for this soup. They give the soup such a beautiful flavor and because they are pureed at the end, they create a creamy soup even though there is NO cream in the soup at all!

 

Don’t save this one for a holiday – enjoy it all winter long. You’ll love it!

WILD MUSHROOM SOUP

Serves: 6-8

Prep: 25 minutes

Cook: 30-35 minutes

Ingredients

3 Leeks – cleaned and sliced thinly using the light green and white parts only

leeks - light green and white parts

4 Tbsp. Butter

2 Tbsp. Oil

3 Whole Shallots – chopped

1 Clove Fresh Garlic – chopped

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

2  Tbsp. Flour

1 lb. Assorted Sliced Wild Mushrooms ( Shiitake, Porcini, Crimini etc – whatever you like)

2 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped

Pinch Fresh Ground Nutmeg

1/2 C. Dry White Wine

7  C. Chicken or Vegetable Broth

Salt and Pepper to taste

Fresh Sage for garnish

Optional: Balsamic Glaze – drizzle for garnish if desired. This can be strong – use just a tiny bit.

Instructions

Clean leeks as directed HERE    & slice thinly.

Leeks-2_thumb

Chop shallots and garlic and saute with the leeks and red pepper flakes in butter and oil – covered –  until tender for about 10 minutes at medium high heat.

Photo Sep 25, 2 56 06 PM

Add the flour and cook a couple of minutes more, stirring.

Photo Sep 25, 3 08 29 PM

Add sliced wild mushrooms, sage, nutmeg and wine – stir.

Add the broth and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes at a strong simmer.

Photo Sep 25, 3 22 43 PM

Next – puree the mushroom mixture. I like to use an immersion blender for this. It is easy and can be done right in your pan. You can also use a food processor, processing the mixture in batches . Either way –  puree the mixture until it is smooth. If there are a few mushrooms left floating, that’s ok.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.

Garnish with fresh sage and a little drizzle of Balsamic Glaze, if you like ,for a little brightness. If you do use the glaze – be VERY sparing, as this has a lot of flavor, and you don’t want to overwhelm the delicate soup.

WILD MUSHROOM SOUP is a beautiful velvety soup that can be served as a first course or as a meal along with some crusty bread and salad.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Cold Cauliflower Soup –

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A Chilled Summer Soup –

Cauliflower soup_0005a

Buon giorno!

 

Sometimes a simple re-work of a favorite recipe transforms the dish and takes it to a totally new place. COLD CAULIFLOWER SOUP is a perfect example of how a couple of simple tweaks can create a new favorite. It’s kind of like finding that pair of pumps or that old favorite golf shirt you forgot you had hiding in the back of the closet. Hidden treasure!

One of the most popular winter soups on the this site has been Roasted Cauliflower Soup. It was all the rage during the winter months because of its easy recipe, healthy nature, and also because of its oh so delicious flavor. In a flash, this soup also can become an equally satisfying and flavorful chilled soup for the hot summer months. This will be your best friend for On the Patio fests and also for healthy summer lunches.

By roasting the cauliflower for this recipe, along with the onion, garlic, and herbs – you are adding soooo much more flavor to the dish than you would get from steaming or boiling. From there, you take the ingredients to the blender and Troppo Bella – you’ve got a great soup.It is a creamy soup with absolutely NO CREAM! I love this one because it can be made ahead and chilled to last days in the fridge. It just doesn’t get any easier.

Just follow the directions to make the soup by following the link to: Roasted Cauliflower Soup. Next – chill the soup thoroughly.

It’s the garnish that will take this one over the top!

COLD CAULIFLOWER SOUP

Follow the instructions for: Roasted Cauliflower Soup.

Chill the soup in the refrigerator. It can be made a day or two ahead.

When ready to serve – Add the following:

GARNISH

Ingredients

1 cup fresh white bread crumbs

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

Balsamic Glaze or Reduced Balsamic Vinegar

Instructions for crumb topping

Make 1 cup of fresh breadcrumbs with white bread – preferably Italian bread.

Add a tablespoon of olive oil, mix well, and toast the crumbs under the broiler.

Keep crumbs in a sealed container.

(You can also use toasted almonds – For this recipe you might want to chop the toasted nuts.)

Instructions for serving:

Pour or spoon some of the chilled soup in a bowl or glass. It is much prettier in a special glass – maybe a martini glass or a wine glass – or a glass dessert coupe.

Sprinkle some of the toasted crumbs (or almonds) in the center of the soup.

Drop a little Balsamic Glaze (or reduced Balsamic Vinegar)  – dots as in photo – or you can make squiggly lines to be more decorative, if you like.

Balsamic Glaze can now be found at most grocers, Whole Foods, etc in the Vinegar aisle. It is thick and rich-so you only need a little.

This little addition of the Balsamic Glaze adds a sweet brightness to the dish and a tiny bit goes a long way.

To reduce your vinegar – pour some in a small pot – boil and reduce down. The Balsamic becomes thicker, sweeter, and more concentrated.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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February: Pasta Fazool

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Pasta Fagioli

Pasta Fazool_0002

Buon giorno!

Almost everyone familiar with Italian food knows about PASTA FAZOOL aka PASTA FAGIOLI (Pasta and Beans). Certainly no Italian household in Binghamton, NY, where I grew up, was without a family recipe. It was a favorite in our house especially on Friday nights or meatless Holy Days. My Dad, Attilio, loved it. Very often, my mother and father also referred to the dish as Pasta and Beans. Generally, at our house, we almost always ate it without meat. However, it was not uncommon to find it with shrimp or sausage in it, or even cabbage or kale. It was one of those great dishes that was re-created on a regular basis.

The backstage skinny: This recipe for PASTA FAZOOL is made with some chopped pancetta. There is something about a little added pork that takes a dish from the ordinary to the divine. You can just as easily leave it out and make it a meatless dish.

I also use fennel in my version – why? I just love fennel, and every time I add it to a soup or stew, it just seems to get better. This is one of those times. If you don’t like fennel – omit it. To get step by step instructions on how to prep and chop fennel, visit my post:  Makes Me Want to Cluck

I used shell pasta in this recipe. I like shells in PASTA FAZOOL because they tend to scoop up the delicious liquid, and a bean or two always gets caught in them. You can use other types of pasta. Some other common choices are bowties (farfalle) or corkscrews (rotini). I also cook the pasta right in the soup instead of separately. This is the reason: the pasta releases starch while cooking which helps to thicken the soup a little.

Enjoy this family favorite!

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PASTA FAZOOL

(PASTA FAGIOLI)

Serves: 6-8

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp. olive oil

1 chopped onion

2 carrots – chopped

2 stalks celery – chopped

3 cloves garlic – chopped finely

1 fennel bulb – sliced thinly (optional)

1/4 lb. pancetta chopped (optional)

1 28 oz. Can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes (cut coarsely with knife and fork – also add the liquid from the can)

4 c. chicken or vegetable broth

2 Bay Leaves

1/4 c. chopped Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley

1/4 c. chopped Fresh Basil

1 Tbsp. chopped Fresh Oregano (if using dried – use less)

1 Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Rind

1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

1 14 oz. can Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans) – do not drain

1 14 oz. can Cannellini Beans – do not drain

1/2 lb. uncooked shell pasta (or farfalle, rotini or other)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Plenty of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese for serving

Instructions:

Put olive oil in pan. Add onion, carrots, celery, fennel, garlic, pancetta. Cook at medium high until tender about 10 minutes.

Add tomatoes, broth, herbs, bay leaves, rind, red pepper flakes.

Add canned beans undrained with liquid from cans.

Add uncooked pasta. This will thicken the broth.

Bring to a boil – then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Remove and discard the bay leaves when the soup is done! Remove and discard the rind if there is any not melted.

Serve with the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Note: Pasta is a notorious sponge! It absorbs the liquid it swims in. If the PASTA FAZOOL gets dry or absorbs the liquid when leftover, just add water and adjust seasoning if needed.

Crusty Bread?? Uh-huh!!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Roasted Cauliflower Soup

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Buon giorno!

Cauliflower Soupsn

Another year begins with all the promise of a new fad diet. You have attached yourself to another regimen of – let’s see – eggs and water on Mondays – only grapefruit juice on Tuesday etc. – 90 laps a day up and down the driveway – and you are a week into a new and rather costly gym membership. There is no end in sight to your devotion to the transformation of the “new you”. You are hopelessly committed, and there will be no deviation from the program. Not bloody likely!

Soooooo – when you come back to reality and are desperate for something not only healthy but amazingly tasty – but not on your grapefruit diet, ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SOUP will be waiting for you. (Did she just say –healthy?) You can bet your last rigatoni, I did. This soup is creamy, thick, satisfying, amazingly delicious and – wait a minute – creamy?  Healthy and creamy might be just a little contradictory, don’t you think?  Not necessarily so! So, it’s not grapefruit juice, but it’s not a ticket to the cardiac ward either. Moderation folks! Step off that treadmill for just a moment, and follow my lead.

You can create the creamiest soup without one drop of cream – by pureeing your vegetables. To derive even more flavor – try roasting those vegetables first! I like to use chicken broth for this, but there is no reason why you couldn’t substitute a good vegetable broth. The herbs are fresh, of course, as I feel like they extend the best flavor. You’ll notice a couple of teaspoons of White Balsamic Vinegar in this soup which I think brightens the savory and roasted flavors just a little. It works!

This is a great choice for these cold winter evenings – either as a first course or a main course. There is something about the addition of the red pepper flakes that helps to warm you right down to your freshly pedicured toes. I like a crusty Italian loaf with this soup – perhaps a few slices drizzled with Extra Virgin and toasted in the oven. A couple of strips of roasted red pepper on those slices just might be more excitement than I can stand!  You are going to love this soup. Troppo bella!

 

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SOUP

Serves: 4-6

Prep: 25 min.

Cook: 40 min.

Ingredients:

1 Large Head of Cauliflower – cut into pieces (florets or clusters)

1 Large Onion – cut into several pieces (you do not have to chop it)

2 Cloves of Fresh Garlic – sliced

Olive Oil

Salt & Pepper

1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley – chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Sage – chopped

1/4 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

1/2 c. Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Montasio, or Grana Padano

5 C. Warm Chicken Broth (you can use vegetable if you like) – use less broth if your head of cauliflower is not large – amount of broth also depends on how thick you like the soup

2 Tsp. White Balsamic Vinegar

3 Tbsp. Butter

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Instructions:

Toss together: cauliflower florets, onion and garlic pieces. Drizzle the mixture with a little olive oil, and add salt and pepper. Mix until coated.

Spread the mixture out on a sheet pan, and sprinkle with the herbs and the red pepper flakes. Spread the Parmigiano over the top of the vegetables and herbs. Roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes – until the cauliflower is tender and golden.

Cauliflowersm

When finished place the roasted mixture in a food processor and process until ground. While running the processor, slowly pour in the warm broth until you get the thickness and consistency that you like. Use more broth for a thinner soup – less for thicker. The amount of broth will also depend on how large your cauliflower is. Add the broth slowly, and you be the judge! You may have to finish in 2 batches depending upon how large your food processor is.

Add in the vinegar and the butter and process again.  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.

DONE! (You will love that you can make this ahead and freeze it also!)

Serve: I like this ROASTED CAULIFLOWER SOUP  very warm and thick. It is simple, rustic, and totally appropriate for any time of year – but especially satisfying in cold weather. As my mother would say, “Eat it – it’s good for you!”

PARLA COME MANGI!

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November: Zuppa di Zucca

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Squash Soup_0015

Butternut Squash Soup with Goat Cheese and Frangelico

This is not just another Butternut Squash Soup recipe. My Zuppa di Zucca (Butternut Squash Soup) with Goat Cheese and Frangelico is delicate and sweet as you might imagine—but with a few surprises. This is an easy soup to make. It can be served hot or at room temperature and YES – it can be made ahead and frozen. One of the surprises is of course the Goat Cheese or Chevre – in the soup! It adds a little more substance – an earthiness to the soup and elevates the flavor level. As always, I like to use the chevre from my local cheese artisan – see link: CALYROAD CREAMERY . I am fortunate to have such a gifted  source for my cheese, as I am a believer that quality breeds quality.

The Chevre: In this amazing velvety soup, I use the goat cheese in the soup, itself, and also as a garnish before serving.

The flavors: Aside from the sweet butternut squash, other ingredients are introduced in this soup which add exceptional new levels to its flavor. Fresh apple, honey, nutmeg, and whole cloves bring a sweet spiciness which almost make you think of dessert – although the sweetness is only hinted and does not dominate the dish. My argument with many recipes for this soup is that they are many times too sweet  and the flavors of the wonderful fresh ingredients are often masked. That is not the case here.

The kick: Of course, you know there must be something special that sets this Zuppa di Zucca apart. In this case, I would say that it is definitely the use of Frangelico, a delightful Italian, easy to find, hazelnut liqueur. It comes in a cool bottle shaped like a monk’s robe – thus the name. Like the goat cheese, the Frangelico is used in the soup as well as at the very end just before serving. It is that last touch of Frangelico, not cooked in, and used as a finish, floating on the top, that gives the soup a sweet and lovely kick and sends the taste buds into an alternate universe. Well—almost… ( if Frangelico is not an option for you – try Hazelnut Syrup) In addition to the Frangelico, I also add some toasted chopped hazelnuts on the top which give the soup a little crunch and compliment the hazelnut liqueur flavor.

The result: It has been my experience that it is very difficult to stop eating this soup. Caution! Control the portions for your guests or the cries of “More, More” will overtake the pleasant conversation you had hoped for at your table and no one will have room left for the main course.

The surprise! How about serving this amazing soup in shooter glasses as appetizers. Room temperature is perfect for these – or even serve them cold if you like. You should offer spoons as your guests will not want to miss a drop!

Shooters with script

Don’t wait for Thanksgiving! This is a dish you’ll want to serve all through the fall season. Andiamo!

ZUPPA DI ZUCCA

(Butternut Squash Soup)

Serves: 6

Prep: 30-40 minutes

Cook: 20-25 minutes

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. Olive oil

2 Tbsp. Butter

2 lb. peeled, chopped butternut squash( you can buy this already peeled and chopped to save time but it is more expensive. Peeling, chopping, seeding yourself is not difficult. It just takes a little time. Be sure to use a sharp knife.)

1 Medium Onion – chopped

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage.

1 Sweet apple, chopped ( a Golden Delicious is perfect.)

Pinch fresh nutmeg

2 Whole Cloves

2 Tsp. good local Honey

2 Tbsp. Frangelico + extra for drizzling at the end (Hazelnut Syrup can be substituted)

1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper (optional)

3 c. Chicken broth

1/2 c. whole milk

6 -8 oz. Crumbled Chevre or goat cheese + more for garnish (do not use pre-crumbled cheese for this – it’s kind of dry and nasty) Your choice on amount here. If you really like the goat – you might like a little more and go for the 8 oz. The 6 oz. is a happy medium.

Coarsely Chopped toasted hazelnuts for garnish

Instructions:

Put oil and melt butter in a large pan or pot.

Add butternut squash, onion, apple, sage, nutmeg, cloves, honey, Frangelico, Cayenne Pepper if using. Saute 5 minutes and stir well to coat all of the ingredients.

Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 20-25 minutes until the squash is tender. Cool just a few minutes.

Squash Soup_0001

Remove the cloves.

Add salt and pepper.

Add the ingredients to a blender in batches and puree. You can also use an immersion blender.

Return all to the pot and heat soup. Add the milk and the goat cheese. Stir and melt the cheese. Do not let the soup boil! You might help it along by crushing the cheese a little with back of spoon. You can also use the immersion blender again here if you like. It breaks the cheese up quickly. Don’t worry if there are tiny pieces of cheese left in the soup. If you like a thinner soup, you can always thin it with a little chicken broth.

Test for seasoning. Be sure there is enough salt added to bring the flavors forward.

At this point you can freeze the soup.

When ready to serve  the Zuppa Di Zucca:  ladle warm soup into dishes – or if serving at room temp – martini glasses are nice for this or even “shooter” glasses for a buffet. Your soup will provide more  and smaller servings if serving in the glasses. For garnish: place some crumbled goat cheese and toasted hazelnuts on the top of each bowl or glass. Finally, drizzle a little Frangelico over the top of each serving and float it. You will not believe what this little drizzle adds to the soup. Just trust me on this one!

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Italian Onion Soup

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      Carabaccia

Onion-Soup_13_thumb (1)

Buon giorno!

So when is French Onion Soup not French Onion Soup? When it’s ITALIAN! For those of you who subscribe to my newsletter, you’ll remember my sort of snarky little history lesson on French Onion Soup – and how it’s really not so… well… French! Indeed – according to history, it is not!  ITALIAN ONION SOUP, or CARABACCIA, is a very old Tuscan dish that dates back a few centuries.

I was reminded recently by my friend, Tracey, who travels a lot, of how the dish whether French or Italian can be so badly mangled. She described the French Onion Soup she ordered and so anticipated on a business trip recently. When the soup arrived there were NO onions in it – just a beefy broth with the obligatory cheese and bread. How very disappointing—really!

It was then that I decided that the newsletter article just wasn’t enough, and that I must delve further and more deeply into this ITALIAN ONION SOUP  (or Tuscan Onion soup) thing  to show how the Italians handle it. And, NO – they most certainly do NOT leave out the onions.

The skinny: OK – for those of you who have not yet subscribed to the Linda’s Italian Table newsletter, where I serve as your personal informant on things Italian, you are missing out on these little tidbits and snippets of Italian inside info and should run now to the website and subscribe. Here is the link: SUBSCRIBE TO NEWSLETTER .These little nuggets don’t usually land on the blog. However, for today, I’ll clue you in on what newsletter subscribers already know. That is, French Onion Soup was not always French and was introduced to the French by none other than Catherine de Medici at the ripe old age of 14, when she married Henry II of France. Apparently she brought her well equipped Tuscan chefs with her to France and also taught the French the use of the fork. (Funny – I thought the French knew everything.) During medieval times, and also during Catherine’s era, the dish was much sweeter than the present day version and has changed over centuries.

The Tuscan Way: The Tuscans, just like my mother, Loretta, were fond of putting a thick slice of crusty bread in the bottom of a bowl and pouring soup over it. The cheese, of course, was Parmigiano-Reggiano – grated and piled high on the top only to be every so slightly scorched just before serving. The traditional onions used were the Tuscan Reds from Certaldo, a town that is remains in part medieval and walled to this day.Those Tuscans definitely cornered the market on this amazing soup.

La Carabaccia: There are differing opinions on what the word “carabaccia” actually means. Some say it is a small boat. Wouldn’t you know – there is even a restaurant in Florence called: Trattoria La Carabaccia! You might enjoy checking out the site, as there is a history to this restaurant and it is a really distinctive place, with its low domed or rounded ceilings ( kind of like the Lobster Bar in Atlanta, Ga. for those who have been there and can relate). It dates back to the 17th c., and the tiles and crests that line the walls are those belonging to the some of the oldest families of Florence. Visiting this place is a “must” for my bucket list.

What makes this different for me is that instead of the expected beef broth flavor of the soup en francais, the Italian has much more flavor and spiciness. The spice is subtle but really draws you into the experience making you crave more. The Italian use of Parmigiano-Reggiano is just perfection with these flavors and of course with the addition of the red wine to the recipe.

You’ll find several different ways to make this soup, but this is the way I make it. I take comfort in its rustic nature and joy in its robust flavor. Hope you will soon succumb to its charms.

CARABACCIA

Tuscan Onion Soup

Serves: 4

Prep and Cook: About 90 min.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 lb. Large Red Onions  (About 3 Large)

3 Tbsp. Butter

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/2 c. Red wine like Valpolicella or Chianti

2 Tsp. Honey

1 Cinnamon Stick

2 Whole Cloves

1 Bay Leaf

5 1/2 c. Beef stock or broth

Salt and pepper to taste ( I usually use about 2 tsp Kosher Salt)

Crusty  Italian bread or Ciabatta

Coarsely Grated Parmigiano –Reggiano Cheese  (about 1/2 c. per bowl)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling before serving

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Instructions:

Peel and slice the red onions.

Click on photo to enlarge

Cook your sliced onions in the butter and oil at medium to med. high heat until onions are caramelized and begin to brown. This takes about 30 minutes. Stir them occasionally so they do not burn.

Click on photo to enlarge

Add the wine, honey, cinnamon stick, cloves and bay leaf. Cook about 3 min. more, stirring.

Onion Soup_03

Add the stock. Bring to boil and then reduce the heat to simmer about 40 minutes. Taste for seasoning – add salt and pepper to taste – add enough salt to bring up the flavor.

When finished, fish out the bay leaf & cinnamon stick, and discard. If you can fish out the cloves also – it’s a good idea.

Brush slices of bread with Olive Oil and toast under broiler .

Place a thick slice into each heatproof bowl.

Pour the soup into the bowls.

Heap about 1/2 c. Parmigiano- Reggiano over the top and place under the broiler until browned and bubbly.

Drizzle each serving with Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

To Serve: I like to serve my CARABACCIA or ITALIAN ONION SOUP with the same red wine that I use in the soup – like a beautiful Valpolicella or a Chianti Classico.  This is great on a cold night – fire – aroma – wine – sigh –  you get the idea…

PARLA COME MANGI!

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RIBOLLITA-IT’S EASY BEING GREEN

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Ribollita_01

Buon giorno!

As I sit here pondering the impending winter storm about to descend on Atlanta and preparing  to stock up for the coming onslaught, I remember my old pal, Kermit the Frog lamenting how “It’s Not Easy Being Green”, and I am given to wonder if he ever tasted the old Tuscan favorite, Ribollita. Perhaps if he had, his burden of green-ness might have felt – well – less burdensome. Certainly there is nothing more green, healthy, and satisfying than a bowl of this stew-like soup.… or is it soup-like stew? Kermit may also not have met my friend, Tiffany, who has a compelling passion for Ribollita to the extent that she collects recipes for it and loves to prepare it. She reminded me of her “green obsession” recently when she asked not if but when we might have a conversation about it on MY ITALIAN DISH. With the wind picking up and ice beginning to fall from the sky, I see no better time than the present.

What is Ribollita Kermit might ask? It is the culinary embodiment, in my mind, of what my mother, Loretta, called “peasant food” – simple, hearty, healthy, inexpensive, using common ingredients, and can be made in quantity to be served for days. Typically Ribollita is made with greens (specifically black cabbage), beans, tomatoes, bread, and more beans and greens. Is it a soup or a stew? The addition of the bread accounts for the difference here which, to me, makes it more like stew. There must be endless numbers of recipes for it swirling about the culinary atmosphere – using all types of ingredients in combination with… beans and greens. I want to introduce to you the way I make it – rather traditional and completely vegetarian. Actually, I see no reason for using meat in this dish! With that in mind you will see that it will be no less hearty preparing it my way.

Ribollita is an ever popular recipe that is truly Tuscan. It means literally “re-boiled” as it is boiled twice during its preparation.  Many think the recipe had its beginnings in Firenze (Florence) especially the Florentines! However, Siena, and other areas also claim it. Recipes are said to go back as far as the Middle Ages. At this time in history, Italy and Tuscany, in particular, existed in a feudal society where areas of land were divided into fiefs. It is thought that the lords or upper classes gave their left over bread to the peasants who added it to water and a few vegetables creating a soup. It was re-boiled over days and the bread thickened it.

Growing up, we did not specifically eat or cook Ribollita. However, we did have dishes made with greens that were very similar. We had  Minestra – which was a soup of greens, sometimes using a ham bone and sometimes beans. Minestra is considered by most to be just a name for a vegetable soup. In our house, Minestra, always featured some sort of greens in it. It almost meant greens in our house. It was often served at Easter. Also, we often had a dish my parents called “Verdes and Beans”. (Verde means green in Italian) This was a simple dish of beans and cabbage – again more stew-like than soup and was a winter “anytime” meal. Bread was offered on the side – but many times it was placed in the bottom of the bowl with the soup/stew poured over. This is also another similarity with Ribollita.

My recipe for Ribollita is completely vegetarian and very nutritious. To call it soup is a little misleading. It begins as any soup, but after the bread is added, it becomes a thick, hearty stew. It is a meal in itself incorporating vegetables, starch, and protein. It is so delicious and very satisfying.  With as many recipes out there for this dish as cats in the Colosseum, you are guaranteed to find many variations of ingredients from using meat to even using anchovies. I assure you that you are missing nothing by not including the hairy little fish in this lovely dish. Traditionally, Black Cabbage or Cavolo Nero is used for the greens. Interestingly, Black Cabbage is not black! Cavolo Nero or Black Cabbage is simply dark green Kale! Sometimes you’ll find this labeled Lacinato Kale. It is all the same. See how lush and beautiful this is!

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You can also use Savoy Cabbage. I like to use a combination of the dark Kale and just because I love it – Swiss Chard, with the beautiful and vivid lipstick red vein. Troppo Bella!

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The classical preparation calls for creation of the soup the first day, adding day old bread to the soup the second day, and the re-boiling of the soup and eating it on the 3rd day. Uh—excuse me, but who has 3 available days to make soup?  RELAX – It definitely does NOT require a tedious 3 day step by step process. Just watch and see!

The version I introduce today will be an easy “one day wonder” for any cold wintry day! It serves 8-10 at a sitting, or can be eaten over several days as we did when confined to our Atlanta igloo during Winter Storm 2011. You can also freeze it. This stuff is addictive and delicious. It provides all the nutrition needed for a meal all in one bowl and is a great way to get the family to eat greens and love them! Does it get any better than this? ANDIAMO!

RIBOLLITA

PREP:

5 fresh plum tomatoes skinned and chopped or 5 canned plum tomatoes chopped

3/4 c. dry Cannellini Beans soaked overnight in water to cover – Drain next day

1/3 c. dry Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans) soaked overnight in water to cover – Drain next day

1 lb. Black Cabbage Leaves (or Dark/Lacinato Kale, or Savoy Cabbage) – washed, leaves torn/chopped into large pieces

1/2 lb. Swiss Chard Leaves with Red Vein – washed, leaves torn/chopped into large pieces

IN DEEP POT SAUTE:

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion chopped

3 cloves garlic chopped

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ADD TO POT:

1 1/2 tbsp. Tomato Paste

5 chopped skinned plum tomatoes

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2 peeled and diced medium potatoes

3/4 c. carrots chopped

3/4 c. celery

Saute above ingredients for about 5 min – stir occasionally

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NEXT:

Add all greens – they will fill the pot – looks like a lot!

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Work into the other vegetables and see how the greens “shrink”!

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ADD:

64 oz. (about 8 cups) Vegetable Broth – I use organic.

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1 Bay Leaf

1 1/2 tsp fresh Thyme chopped

1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

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ADD: All Soaked and drained beans

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ADD: 1 Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese rind

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I save these. You can freeze them. I have also seen them sold in the specialty cheese departments at grocers now – Several in a container.

Pick up a container if you can and keep frozen. They are great in many sauces.

Season with Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

TO COOK:

Bring to boil – lower heat & simmer about an hour uncovered. Then cover & simmer 2nd hour.

BREAD:

Use a coarse Italian Bread – 5-7 slices Plain, Ciabatta, Potato Rosemary, Olive Oil Rosemary – whatever you have or like

Brush slices with Extra Virgin Olive Oil .(Some recipes suggest rubbing with garlic.) Bake slices at 350 til golden.(10-15 min)

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Lay slices in bottom of large pot.

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Pour all of soup over.

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Let sit until completely cool. This can be a couple of hours or even overnight if you’d rather.

REBOIL! Stir as it boils, breaking up the soft bread pieces. This will thicken the soup.

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Most will melt into the mixture – some pieces will remain. It should be thick like stew.

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To serve, remove the Bay Leaf and re-season if needed. Serve with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil drizzled over each dish.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

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