This soup comes from Trentino in the far north of Italy. It’s a region I’ve yet to visit. If this soup is typical of the cuisine, I need to correct that oversight soon.
I scanned this recipe quickly making sure I had all the ingredients on hand, then while the barley simmered in the soup pot, I chopped the veggies.
As I’ve come to understand the science behind Marcella’s focus on flavor layering, I enjoy contemplating the order these particular ingredients will be put to the heat.
First the onions join the olive oil in a pan put to medium heat. They are softened to a beautiful pale golden color. Then comes a few minutes for the pancetta to add her heady flavor. After that it is rosemary and parsley’s turn to be stirred in for a brief minute and then the heat is turned off.
When the barley is tender, I prepare to add the rest of the ingredients. I’m about to dump the contents of the sauté into the pot, when my eyes fall on the carton of bullion cubes. I set the pan back down wondering, just how old are these cubes, anyway? I so rarely use them. I can’t even remember when I bought them. Hmmm. Well, I know that the industrial size container came from Sam’s Wholesale. It’s almost half empty and we switched from Sam’s to Costco at least three years ago. Oh my! Not good.
Our single self-imposed rule is as we began this project -- Follow the Recipe Exactly. No variations without Marcella’s express written permission. It’s Sunday afternoon. I doubt Marcella and Victor will be checking in on Facebook or email. No way am I going to disturb them by telephone while I’m sure they are at this very moment enjoying their own Sunday dinner.
But, the soup is bubbling. What to do? Do I use an old stale bullion cube that might taint the final dish? Do substitute stock? I decided that Marcella would always approve of a decision to avoid using an inferior ingredient. So, before adding any of the other ingredients, I scooped out a cup of cooking liquid and replaced it with a cup of boxed beef stock. To more closely approximate the strength of the bullion cube, I didn’t dilute the stock.
With a sense of relief at having salvaged the recipe, I picked up the pan of onions and dumped it into the pot along with the diced carrot and potato. As it cooked, I tested for salt and found that I needed to add more to compensate for the substitution of stock for bullion.
Barley Soup in the Style of Trent is a wonderful and hearty soup. I’ll make it again…after I’ve purchased fresh bullion cubes.