About Beth

Beth, along with her husband, Mike, is co-owner of two Italian Deli/Markets in St. Louis - Viviano’s Festa Italiano. When not creating yummy new menu items for the deli, she’s the pediatric research lab supervisor at Washington University School of Medicine. Read more out about Viviano’s Festa Italiano.

About Irene

Irene loves to think, read and dream about food. She enjoys cooking & eating in general. Although she demures about her talents, Irene has a finely-tuned palate that her friends envy. She bakes on occasion. The rest of the time she's creating memories with her family and friends. . . or she's learning a new needlecraft technique.

About Deborah

Deborah is a wife, mother, grandmother, traveler, bootlegger, and a very poor speller! As Victor Hazan so eloquently puts it, Deborah has chosen Umbria to be the home of her soul. When she can’t be there in body, she spends her free time cooking & reading about Italy. She blogs mostly about food and about trips – past and future – here: Old Shoes New Trip.

About Doug

Doug lives in Eastern Ontario in a farmhouse built in 1903. He is a retired teacher with four adult children, a wife, a son-in-law, two Irish step-grandchildren and one grandson who he is lucky to hang with a lot. He has way too many books. Doug also blogs at To Slow Time Down.

About Cindy

Cindy lives in Eagle River, Alaska where her freezer is always full of salmon, halibut & shrimp. Cindy participates in several regular cooking challenges. You can read more about her cooking and life in the last frontier on her blog, Baked Alaska.

About Sandi

Sandi is a true Southerner, but a traveler & Italian cook at heart. She lives in Alabama and knows more about fried green tomatoes than fricassees. Her family owned the WhistleStop Café for many years. Sandi also blogs at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking.

About Jan

Jan, a serious home cook, has owned “Essentials” since 1992. She is passionate about all things Italian, especially the cuisine & the language. Jan blogs about her travels (next trip Italy May/June of 2010) at: Keep your Feet in the Street.

About Jerry

Jerry is a food obsessed Canadian. He learned to love Italian food as a child while eating the meals prepared by his Napolitano uncle. He learned to cook Italian foods by watching his uncle cook these feasts for the family. This love of Italian food has been honed through serious personal experimentation in eating and cooking. Willing to try most anything once, Jerry isn't so sure about tripe! Jerry also blogs at Jerry's Thoughts, Musings, and Rants!

About Palma

Palma is a Marriage & Family Therapist in Palm Desert, CA. She’s an Italian-American with a passion for cooking, entertaining, & travel to Italy. She’s always planning her next culinary adventure to Italia on her blog, Palmabella's Passions

About Kim

Kim is our permanent sub and the image above gives you a good idea of the look on her face when she realized she was drafted. Kim loves to eat, drink, travel and cook - probably in that order. When she's not here, you can find her organizing and leading food, wine and beer tours in Europe as co-owner and operator of GrapeHops or blogging at What I Really Think.


Soups Archives

April 21, 2010

Minestrone alla Romagnola-Vegetable Soup, Romagna Style

Michele is on a brief sabbatical, so the rest of us are picking up the next three weeks for her. Fortunately for me (Deborah), I get to make Minestrone.
Is there any smell more comforting and inviting than a pot of homemade vegetable soup gently bubbling on the stove?


Many of us make our vegetable soups almost without thought. Our hands know what to do, and our minds are free to wonder as we cook.
In being forced to read the recipe, follow it exactly, and concentrate on what I was doing, I experienced a minor revelation.


I realized that, as an experienced home cook, I put my ingredients into the pot in a specific order, even when I’m not thinking about it. That order is based on how long it takes the ingredient to begin softening.
I thought, “How many people just learning to cook, don’t realize this?”
“How many less exacting recipes don’t bother to detail the order of the ingredients and the amount of time one should wait between ingredients?”
And, again I am reminded of the simple beauty in Marcella’s teaching.


I have one significant disagreement with her, however.

She offers as optional what I consider to be an indispensable ingredient…the crust of a piece of parmigiano-reggiano.

The smell I spoke of at the beginning of this post? It owes its luxuriousness to the presence of the cheese crust. Please, don’t try to save time and money by leaving it out.

April 22, 2010

Summer Vegetable Soup with Rice and Basil, Milan Style


It's Cindy again, and this week I've moved on to soups. And what a very nice soup to start with -Summer Vegetable Soup with Rice and Basil, Milan Style. I love Marcella's description of this soup. She says that during the hot Milan summers, the trattorie make this soup first thing in the morning, and pour it into individual soup plates. They display it on a table at the entrance. By the time people arrive for lunch at 12:30 or 1:00, the soup will be at the perfect temperature and consistency.

This soup is based on the Minestrone alla Romagnola, that if you're following our blog, Michele made yesterday. So I made the Minestrone one day before making this soup, and let it set in the refrigerate all night becoming more flavorful. Then to make this Summer soup, you heat up some of the Minestrone, add rice (preferably Arborio), and water. You cook just until the rice is almost done, knowing that it will continue to soften as it sits. You then added grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and torn basil leaves. I let my soup set for a few hours to become room temperature, but maybe because it's still cold here in Alaska, it was a little too cold for my taste. I preferred it warmed a little.

A variation that Marcella lists to this soup is instead of tearing the basil and adding it, you make a pesto and stir it into the soup. We loved this version the most. That pesto adds the lively spring flavor of basil throughout the soup. I wish I would have taken a photograph of this version, because it's also a beautiful green color. This soup is to be eaten the day it is made, otherwise the rice becomes too soft. But the Minestrone base can stay in the refrigerator for a while. We loved the version with Pesto so much that I think I made it 3 or 4 nights in a row.

April 23, 2010

Spring Vegetable Soup

This is a very simple soup. There are just three main ingredients: potatoes, peas and artichokes. I was lucky to see fresh, local, sweet green peas at our farmer's market but there are no artichokes grown anywhere near here so I had to settle for buying them in the super market.
Marcella gives easy-to-follow instructions on trimming the artichokes. Doing it reminded me of watching a vendor at the Rialto Market in Venice, trimming the outer leaves, turning the artichoke, at lightning speed, and tossing the hearts into a bucket of (probably acidulated, since they stayed white) water. He did several with a paring knife, in just the few minutes while I observed.

Here's my bowl filled with the cleaned and sliced artichoke centers:


It took me less time than I anticipated with only three artichokes--no big deal.

The recipe asks for one pound of boiling potatoes. I use two large Yukon Golds and afterwards I thought they may have been too big because there seemed to be a little bit too many.

The artichoke flavor was fully present but so were the other vegetable tastes.
Just for an experiment, the next night, I pureed the leftovers but I didn't think it was as nice as the chunky original.


April 24, 2010

Spinach Soup


I found two BEAUTIFUL large bunches of fresh spinach for this simple soup. I love spinach in salads, slightly sauteed with garlic, or cooked, but have never made a soup where spinach was the main ingredient. This couldn't be easier. Spinach, butter, onion, beef broth and some milk went together quickly. A little nutmeg and some freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano, and there was delicious soup! I also followed Marcella's simple method for crostini as a garnish. Lovely, simple, delicious (and nutritious)!


April 25, 2010

Escarole Soup with Rice

This soup really surprised me. I had eaten escarole in soups before, but never as the main ingredient. I didn’t anticipate the amount of flavor that these simple ingredients could impart. When I was reading the recipe I was wondering why you would need to dilute the beef stock. I couldn’t imagine that you wouldn’t need the richness of the stock to compensate for the lack of other ingredients. Silly me. This is one time that I am very glad that I didn’t tinker with the recipe. Trust me I started to, but then thought, I have to be true to Marcella’s recipe, and I am so glad that I was. The magic is in the balance of flavors.


After I chopped the escarole and got it cooking with the onions and beef broth, I thought the smell was unpleasant. I let the escarole cook for about 50 minutes until it was tender and amazingly the smell changed drastically over that course of time. It started smelling better and better. Once I added the diluted beef broth and the Arborio I knew it would be great. When it finally finished and I had shot the picture, I sat down to eat a bowl. I was so thrilled with the soup that I was tempted to eat it all! I didn’t though, Michael would never forgive me! His Zia used to make a soup like this when he was really little, so it was definitely a trip back in time for him. This soup will be a keeper for us.

April 26, 2010

Risi e Bisi - Rice and Peas

April 25 is the Feast Day for the patron saint of Venice, St. Mark. As a forward to the recipe, Marcella mentions how this soup was enjoyed on this day of celebration. The anniversary of the 1945 fall of Mussolini's Italian Social Republic, Italy’s Liberation, falls on the same day.

I will admit I was not excited to make this recipe. I do not like peas. My lack of enthusiasm worsened as I began to shell the peas. Shelling peas is absolutely my least favorite culinary activity. Well enough about me. Let’s talk about this soup, Rice and Peas. I followed the recipe carefully. This simple soup is a combination of fresh young peas, butter, onion, Arborio rice, and homemade beef broth. I tried hard to stir up some excitement as I stirred the pot. The smell that perfumed the air as it simmered helped a great deal. The soup was ready in about 30 minutes. A little parmigiano-reggiano cheese was mixed in before ladling up a bowl for lunch.

I liked it. Yes, I could taste the peas. But the wonderful undertone of the broth with the slight saltiness of the cheese and chewiness of the rice made it worth eating.

Rice and Peas Soup

©2010 Irene D. Ericson

April 27, 2010

Rice and Smothered Cabbage Soup

Over the years, as I leafed through Essentials looking for inspiration, I was never tempted by page 94. This was because the main ingredient, Smothered Cabbage, appealed to me not at all. It seemed to be nothing more than oily sauerkraut.

That was pre-Pomodori.e.Vino. That was when I had a choice in what I was going to cook. Now I find a little yellow sticky-note dated 27APR staring commandingly at me from page 94.


OK, so it looks pretty boring, but I’m game. I flip back to page 479 for the Smothered Cabbage recipe. I won’t spend any time talking about this experience, because it’s Jerry or Palma’s gig, and on January 15, 2011 you’ll read all about it from whichever one of them is cooking that day.

I make the Smothered Cabbage, stick it in the fridge and go to bed, still unconvinced that this soup will be anything I will enjoy eating.


Next day, I pull the cabbage out of the fridge, dump it in a soup pot with broth and set it on the fire. When it begins to bubble, I add the rice. When the rice is tender, I pull the pot off the fire and add the butter, cheese and fresh ground pepper. Finito!


No appealing contrasting colors. Little textural variety. Not even a leafy garnish. It's visually unattractive.

I grudgingly admit to myself that it smells pretty good. I credit the parmigiano-reggiano and the butter for that. I also admit that I don’t smell the vinegar as strongly as I had expected to.

I ladle it into a bowl, take my final photo, and sit down to taste.

I eat two bowls full.

April 28, 2010

Potato Soup with Carrots and Celery

When Deborah, our Queen Bee organizer, asked if someone was willing to pick up an extra soup to make I jumped at the opportunity. After a warm March things had turned decidedly cool again and I was craving a 'bone-warming' soup! A potato soup with carrots and celery seemed to be just the thing to warm me up.

Marcella writes that this was one of the first recipes that she learned to make after her marriage. I imagine that she was never taught an exact recipe, printed out on a card, instead she was taught a technique. Having perfected this technique over the years she is able to use her well honed skill of communicating with home cooks to provide a culinary masterpiece that is beguiling in its simplicity.

There isn't much to this soup - potatoes, some vegetables, cheese, milk, and broth. Yet this simple ingredient list produces a soup with a wonderful contrast in textures and flavour. We enjoyed it last week but it was even better today - proving that all good soups (like people) just get better with time!

In Italian this soup is Minestrina Tricolore - referring to the three colours of the Italian flag. Here you have the white of the potato, the orange of the carrot, and the green of the parsley. All in all, a very pretty soup to look at, even better to TASTE!

April 29, 2010

Potato Soup with Smothered Onions


I love soups. They can be very filling and are wonderful for the cold climate I live in. When I saw this recipe I was to make, Potato Soup with Smothered Onions, I was really looking forward to it. I make soups all of the time, but can't remember the last time I made a potato soup.

Well, when you're craving a warm, flavorful, comforting soup, make this one. It was so good that my husband and I ate the entire pot in one setting.

The soup is made by slowly cooking sliced onions until they're a nice light brown. You then add diced potatoes and broth and cook until the potatoes are soft. At the end, a little parmigiano-reggiano is stirred in. It's a very easy soup to make, with very few ingredients. But the results are so flavorful that I bet you can't eat just one bowl either.

April 30, 2010

Pomodori e Vino ~Potato and Green Pea Soup

If you saw me post earlier in the week, y'all saw my big goof. I made the wrong soup!
As a part of the Pomodori e Vino Challenge we have divided the cookbook, Essentials of Italian Cooking, into 7 different daily recipes. We each have a day and a new recipe.
Somehow I confused the Potato and Split Pea Soup with Potato and Green Pea Soup. So tonight I whipped up another pot of potato soup. I can say both were great!
Potato with Green Pea Soup
The thing I love most about The Queen of Italian cooking is the way she describes the details of each recipe. It is the process that brings out each flavor. This soup is a very simple soup with onions, potatoes, and green peas. In her cookbook, Marcella has a beautiful way of describing the process~
'put in the butter, oil, sliced onion, and a large pinch of salt. ... cook the onion, turning it occasionally, until it becomes very soft and has shed all it's liquid. Then uncover the pan, turn up the heat to medium and cook, stirring once or twice, until all the liquid has bubbled away and the onion has become colored a tawny gold.'
I used more of the meat broth that I had frozen to provide a flavorful base.pom-soup.jpg
I may not have cooked the potatoes until they were soft enough to get the right texture. I used frozen petite peas, to me they have the best fresh flavor. The combination of potatoes with peas and caramelized onions was a fantastic flavor.
Y'all don't forget to Follow Along on facebook... everyday a new adventure!
Ciao y'all,

May 1, 2010

Potato Soup with Split Green Peas

I do believe that the soup section of 'Essentials' has surprised me the most so far. When I think of soups and Italian foods two things come to mind - Minestrone and Pasta Fagioli. Who knew that there was such greater depth to Italian soups than that?

This is not to cast aspersions upon these two soups - I love them both. Rather it is merely an observation on my ignorance of the breadth of Italian foods. I chalk this to the fact that I always visit Italy in the warm weather when soup is by far the furthest thing from my mind. Gelato . . . always! Soups . . . not so much.

Marcella includes no fewer than four different potato soup recipes in Essentials. This is the second one to include peas. I love potato soup and I love pea soup so I was sure that this would be a new favourite of mine.

The recipe was a breeze . . . essential you boil the heck out of potatoes and split green peas. This mixture gets puréed and then sautéed onions are added. One finishes the dish with some freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, a grind of pepper, and you're good to go.

The soup was a subtle, but pretty green colour and a had surprising depth of flavour. This made it a favourite in our household.

Marcella suggests serving it topped with homemade crositini which added a hefty crunch to this soup.

May 2, 2010

Lentil Soup

Michael has certainly been looking forward to this soup. It is another one that his Zia made for him when he was little. I wish she had been alive when Michael and I were married, because I would have loved to learn to make all of these dishes from her. He sure does miss her, but for a moment he can relive those times by sharing this wonderful soup.

I have to be honest and say that I really messed up the beginning of this soup. I had a brain malfunction and somehow went from tablespoons of oil to ounces of oil. Don’t ask me how, but it made sense at the time. I started browning the onion and pancetta in the mixture of butter and oil and realized my mistake. So, I ended up scooping off the excess oil. I think I was able to get back to the right amount because the rest of the soup went together well, but it did cause me a few minutes of panic. I added the carrot and celery and then the diced tomatoes (San Marzano line) and let it cook for about a half hour. I then washed the Lentils. We had Italian Green Lentils at the store, so I chose to use them for this soup. They are very small and dainty. I drained them and then added them to the soup, with the beef broth. This cooked for about an hour. It smelled heavenly.


When the lentils were tender, I swirled in butter and some grated Parmigano Reggiano. It was wonderful. It was storming that night and it really was comforting to have a rich hearty soup for dinner. I am especially thankful that the electricity stayed on for the whole recipe!!

May 3, 2010

Lentil Soup with Pasta, Bacon, and Garlic

When I hear the word lentil my mind immediately thinks of the Mediterranean. I have visions of sunny skies, blue horizons and life of all forms. Emotion sweeps over me. The reaction is the same if I run across the word in a recipe. I am happy and humbled at the same time. I feel a deep sense of connection to past and present, near and far, abundance and wanting. It’s a powerful experience evoked by this ancient pulse.

Today with gratitude I made Lentil Soup with Pasta, Bacon and Garlic. It was a family affair. As I prepared ingredients, my husband and I chatted about how we’ll make it to Europe one day. My 2 ½ year old son was unofficial sous-chef. That’s his hand in the photo adjusting the parsley. It was great to eat altogether. Our schedules have made shared meals a luxury.


The soup is flavorful, earthy and very filling. The pungency of the Pecorino was too much for my husband but my son enjoyed it quite well. He even asked for seconds. I will definitely make this again. I’ll just hold the cheese to the side as a stir in.

Lentil Soup with Pasta, Bacon, and Garlic

©2010 Irene D. Ericson

May 4, 2010

White Bean Soup with Garlic and Parsley

I love cannellini. So I expected to enjoy this simple soup. For the last five weeks, Marcella’s less-is-more recipes have proven to be delightful. I’ve been repeatedly surprised at the flavor coaxed from simple ingredients and a little salt and pepper.


But this time, I was disappointed. I guess, as much as I love cannellini beans, I don’t love them quite this plain.

I’m used to treating them as pasta substitute; serving them with a flavorful puttanesca sauce, for example. Even in soup, I like more flavors. I make a hearty cannellini soup I call Cannellini Tricolore, with veggies the colors of the Italian flag.

After tasting, and deciding it was too bland, it was tempting to add something. A little crushed red pepper, maybe? How about some pancetta? Substitute basil for the parsley? Even a little of the old standby parma?

But, I resisted. I followed the rules and the recipe to the letter.

Tomorrow, however, is a different story. The leftovers will be combined with roasted sweet peppers, grilled shrimp, and some tender asparagus tips for lunch.

May 5, 2010

Pasta e Fagioli - Pasta and Bean Soup

In the voice of Bob Sheppard, "Now cooking for Michele, number 99 - Kim Riemann." Okay - don't know who Bob Sheppard is? Well, then that reference is lost on you (the rest of you get it right?) - basically, I'm "pinch-hitting" for Michele this week and her assignment is to make Pasta e Fagioli soup.

I'm no stranger to Pasta e Fagioli soup (known around these parts as Pasta Fajola or a little further northeast, Pasta Fazool - no, I'm not kidding), it's one of our favorites (always stop at the Carnivale Italiano for the local Italian ladies version every summer - though that's definitely not Pasta Fagioli weather - but I digress). So when I saw the opportunity to snag this recipe help Michele out, I jumped at it.

The first difference I noticed between what I've made (or eaten) in the past is the bean Marcella uses. She's a fan of the cranberry bean while here I've seen the red kidney bean (and sometimes even the cannellini bean) used though she does say that red kidney beans would be an acceptable substitute. Now the thing you should know about Cranberry beans (and unfortunately, I could not find them fresh this time of year, so I went with the dried version), is they go by other names (see Cook's Thesaurus - Beans for further explanation) but the one I know them as is Roman (aka Roma) Beans (at least according to Goya). So that's what I went with. They're basically a pinkish bean with a stripe.

The second difference between Marcella's version and mine, she uses pork rib meats (and I was never quite clear what I was supposed to do with those ribs once I completed the soup - I nibbled on one, Fala enjoyed some meat off one of the others), while I use some ground Italian sausage (turkey usually), as a base.

Other than that it's pretty similar to the soups I've made - a bit of a soffrito (celery, onion and carrot) as a base, along with the aforementioned bones, homemade beef broth, which I actually did as opposed to the canned variety I usually use (hey that reminds me - has anyone posted about making the homemade broth/stock?), and at the very end the pasta. She recommends maltagliati (homemade) or any tubular macaroni (I used elbows because we always have them on hand for mac and cheese). That pasta has to go in at the end (and don't cook it for too long afterward), because it just soaks up that broth like a sponge. For leftovers the next day, I added a bit more broth to thin it out but I'd also like to note that the Italian Club Ladies Auxilliary serves theirs almost like a stew at the Carnivale (no broth in site after those macaroni have been sitting in those crockpots all day long).

Lastly, how did it taste? Pretty darn good - because of that homemade broth, it definitely had a richer flavor than my version with canned broth. Though I do have to admit, I did miss my bit of sausage in there. I'll make it again, though a bit of a lighter version (skip the butter at the end next time) as I'm watching my girlish figure and unfortunately, it's getting easier and easier to watch.

Now, here's where you're going to kill me as the sub. I had a bit of a camera misfortune, and my shots (which probably weren't any good anyway), got erased. And yes, while I'd like to blame it on one of my kids or my husband it was my stupidity that led to their destruction (I'll probably never be invited back to cook again). But ... I did remember I had some left over cranberry beans that I photographed for y'all, just so I'd at least have one shot, and you would all know what they look like.

cranberry bean


May 6, 2010

Aquacotta-Tuscan Peasant Soup with Cabbage and Beans

Aquacotta - Tuscan Peasant Soup with Cabbage and Beans

Aquacotta is usually a peasant dish. It's a soup made with stale bread, water, onions, tomatoes, and olive oil. But it's also made in grander households. There, it usually contains eggs, Parmesan cheese, and lemon juice. The version that Marcella lists in her book is of the grander type, and comes from Villa Cappezzana.

I have to say, I was really getting tired of soup and wasn't that excited about making it. But I was really surprised-I loved the soup. You begin by soaking cannellini beans overnight, then cooking them the next day until they're tender. You then make a soup of onions, celery, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, and basil. This mixture cooks for 2-3 hours. I followed all directions except for one-I couldn't find Savoy cabbage anywhere, and had to use regular green cabbage.

When you're ready to assemble the dish, you toast day-old Tuscan-style bread, and layer it on the bottom of a casserole dish. You then top that with the soup and grated Parmesan cheese. You then poach eggs until the whites are just set, and place them on top of the soup mixture. You top with more Parmesan, and place in a hot oven for 10 minutes. You then have this delightful, filling, soup. The flavor of the celery really comes through in this soup, and the poached egg on top really adds the finishing touch.

May 7, 2010

La Jota--Beans and Sauerkraut Soup

La Jota soup is a recipe from Trieste and reflects as Marcella says "the earthy accent of its Slavic origins." I really didn't expect to like it but in the end it was a very satisfying, hearty and flavorful supper.

Making it took me 2 days; there are lots of easy steps but long simmering periods between them. What took me the longest, however was finding the fresh pork hock. After calling several butchers in town and only finding smoked jowls or hocks, a friend suggested I try "Harvey's", a grocery store on the south side, in the African American community. Victory! The kind butcher there cut a hock off a larger piece for me.

In additions to the hock, the soup used beans; I used dried, red kidney beans. But, the most interesting addition was sauerkraut which cooked first separately with the bacon.

And then there was the final step called a pesta (with an accent over the "a"). It involves finely chopped onion, garlic and salt pork, sauteed with flour--like a very savory roux. Here it is, turning golden:


This soup would be perfect for a cold winter night but even though we are in the midst of a beautiful spring, we loved it!


May 8, 2010

Novara's Bean and Vegetable Soup


This is a HUGE recipe - the ingredient list flows down an entire page. One gets intimidated.

Yes, one does.

Then one looks at the meat stock recipe on p. 15 and truly overwhelmed, one decides to save the soup for another day.

That day came and thank goodness I decided to not take the short cut of using a can of broth (??????). I won't judge those who do . . . well perhaps I will judge them a wee bit.

Marcella's stock recipe does make a wonderful flavourful stock. I've made liters of the stuff over the years but none have approached this stock for flavour. Mind you, using five pounds of meat, and 6 different veggies, ought to impart some flavour. You get out what you put in.

Italians use broth in a multitude of dishes - risotto, soups, the braising of meats, and some pasta dishes. Given the importance of such a prime 'background' ingredient for these other recipes, Marcella provides a detailed and well executed broth recipe.

I learned some important things from Marcella - pork or lamb aren't a good base for broth because their flavour can be strong thereby overpowering whatever prime ingredients are to go in the final dish in which you use the broth. Similarly, chicken giblets should be avoided (now that is prime advice. Avoid those nasty bits like you would Paris Hilton would be MY advice. Marcella is far more honorable than I!).

Anyway, a long and drawn out way of saying - nice broth Marcella. The containers of it frozen in freezer # 2 await future use.

Broth at hand (OK. In pot) I started my soup.

This soup is from the area around Norvara which I discovered was in Piemonte (thank you GOOGLE maps) which has got to be one of my favourite areas in Italy. Marcella writes that this soup has 'two lives' first as a soup and then as a base for a wonderful risotto (more on that later when we explore the risotto chapter).

You can enjoy the soup as is, save some for the risotto, or if you wish refrigerate it for a few days and alter it by adding pasta thus ending up with a wonderful new version.

We LOVED this soup with its intense combination of pork belly, onions, carrot, celery, zucchini, shredded red cabbage, beans, tomatoes, and a healthy amount of delicious broth. It was rich, thick, and immensely satisfying.

Shame that Paolo took some to work and spilled it ALL over his lunch bag. What a waste.

Don't be put off by the list of ingredients . . . the list may flow down the page but the compliments to the chef will flow far more when you serve this soup to your lucky guests!

May 9, 2010

Bean and Red Cabbage Soup

The first obstacle that I had to get around with this soup was the lack of the right sausage. Deborah had spotted this problem awhile ago and we have been on a mission to get the sausages made somewhere here in St. Louis. It turns out that many of the recipes coming up will need this special sausage. It is a basic sausage made with pork that only has salt and pepper added, not all of the spices and fennel that most sausages have in them these days. Michael’s family have been friends with the Volpi family for many, many years and it turns out that Armando, the patriarch, is also friends with Marcella. We were hoping that Volpi would be able to make a batch of sausage according to Marcella’s recipe. Unfortunately, they would only be able to make it in bulk, not stuffed in the casing. We have one other company here that may be able to make it for us, but the timing didn’t work out for this recipe.

This recipe took two days to finish. The first thing that I had to do was cook the pork hock for about an hour and then debone it. I then cut it into strips. Next I browned onions, garlic, the cooked hock and pancetta together. Then I added some drained San Marzano tomatoes, celery, and lots of shredded red cabbage. This cooked down for some time, and then the broth was added with some salt and pepper. I simmered this for about 3 hours the first night. I then refrigerated this overnight to allow the fat to congeal. I then scooped the fat off before starting it simmering again. I then browned some ground pork with salt and pepper, in place of the sausage. I drained this and added the meat to the soup. Next I pureed cannellini beans and mixed them in. This simmered for about fifteen minutes and then I added whole cannellini beans and simmered some more. While this was cooking, I sauted some garlic in extra virgin olive oil and added a sprig of rosemary. I strained the oil and added it to the soup.


I have to say that the smell of cooking cabbage has never been a favorite of mine. I was prepared not to like the soup because of that. Over the lengthy simmering process the cabbage became very soft and not really cabbage like. To my surprise the combination of flavors in this soup really worked well together. My 9 year old niece was visiting and she loved the soup. I think my mom will really like it too. She has been in the hospital lately, so a bowl of home made soup might be just the ticket for her on Mother’s day. Once again, Marcella has made me love something that I never would have tried if I had chosen the recipe myself. I can’t wait to get in the right sausage for these recipes, but the substitution worked okay here.

May 10, 2010

Chick Pea Soup

Here I am with my second to last recipe in the soup section and it still amazes me how a few ingredients can turn into a bowl of yummy goodness. I’m really enjoying making these soups. I think I will continue to make soup every week as a new tradition. This way I can extend this wonderful experience and hone my skills at the same time.

The process of making this soup is simple with each step coaxing the flavor out of the ingredients. First, whole cloves of garlic are cooked in oil olive until “light nut brown”. Remove the cloves then add the rosemary (fresh sprig or dried) and chopped tomatoes. I chose dried rosemary which Marcella says to crush to nearly a fine powder. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to use my mortal and pestle. This simmered for 20 minutes. Next, I added the canned chick peas (yes, she approves) cooking for a few minutes. Lastly, I stirred in the broth. Fifteen minutes later the soup was ready.

The end result is a thick, rich tomato broth reminiscent of sun dried tomatoes filled with tender, creamy chick peas. I was surprised how the rosemary became a mellow herby undertone instead of its usual distinctive stand out self. Variations of this soup can be made with the addition of rice or pasta. Perhaps I will choose one and covert my leftovers.

Chick Pea Soup

©2010 Irene D. Ericson

May 11, 2010

Barley Soup in the Style of Trent

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.

May 12, 2010

Broccoli and Egg Barley Soup

This is a deceptively simple recipe - the ingredients are shown below - broccoli, salt, olive oil, garlic, barley, parsley, parmigiano-reggiano cheese and meat broth. The last ingredient was the biggest hurdle. I followed the directions for the Basic Homemade Meat Broth, which added a day to the preparation. But, I've checked ahead & I can use the remaining meat broth in other recipes later in the book & I won't have to resort to any shortcuts. It's worth the time & effort.


I had never heard of egg barley and it was referenced only obliquely in the description. Egg barley is a type of pasta, but I chose to use the pearl barley option. However, I do have a close relationship with several different types of garlic. I have grown my own garlic for the past 10 years or more - and always at least two different varieties. I have also been known to bring back a couple of bulbs of garlic from France or Italy - always make sure I stake out where I plant those cloves. Below is a photo of this year's garlic crop in early May. I will harvest in August; hang the bulbs in a shed to dry, reserve part of the crop for planting in October, pickle some and store the rest in a cold storage room for use over our long Canadian winters.


The directions call for using a container for soaking the broccoli, a sauté pan, a pot in which to boil 3 quarts of water, a food processor, a plate and, finally, a soup pot. A large work space is helpful.

The softened broccoli stalks are made into a purée in the food processor.


The purée, broth and cooked barley are added to the soup pot.


Broccoli florets are added.


The final result, with the parmigiano-reggiano spread on the surface..


This soup was a big hit with four of us, including our twin son and daughter who were home on a brief visit. The rest was enthusiastically consumed by our two-year old grandson the next day.

Next time I'll cut the florets in bigger pieces and I will likely use a bit more broccoli. The recipe calls for a "medium head" - which is at least partly in the eye of the beholder. And I will definitely make it again - likely with fresh broccoli from my garden.

This was the first soup I have made starting with preparing the broth. Thanks Marcella for giving me the opportunity.

May 13, 2010

Passatelli-Egg and Parmesan Strands in Broth


This is my last soup to make in our quest to work our way through Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. It was an interesting one to end with. This soup comes from the Romagna area of Italy. Marcella says that their style of cooking tends to resemble the Bolognese style, but that they value lightness and delicacy more. Their simple soups are an example of this.

This soup starts with homemade meat broth. The recipe is given to us in the Fundamentals Section of the cookbook. It is a combination of a few simple vegetables like carrot, onion, celery, bell pepper, potato, and tomato. Those are cooked along with assorted beef, veal and chicken. You cook the broth for over 3 hours. I like that Marcella explains that this is a broth, not a stock.l It's lighter and softer than the strong reductions you might find in some stocks.

Back to the soup. You bring the broth to a boil. As that's coming to a boil, you mix together grated parmigiano-reggiano, dry breadcrumbs, nutmeg, lemon zest and eggs. This makes sort of a dough. Actually more the texture of polenta. That is forced through the large holes on a food mill into the boiling broth, and cooked for a couple of minutes. You then ladle the soup into bowls and serve with extra Parmesan.

The soup had good flavors. The nutmeg and lemon flavor came through nicely. It is definately all about using a good broth. It was very light and would be a nice light opener to a meal. While I enjoyed it, it's not a soup that I would probably make again. It's not that I didn't like it, because I did. I just usually don't eat soups as a starter, but love heavier, more filling soups that are my full meal.

May 14, 2010

Stuffed Lettuce Soup

We just missed this dish for Easter~ Stuffed Lettuce Soup is the traditional Easter dish on the Italian Riviera. I can't imagine the Mac's kitchen if I had announced I was bringing lettuce soup stuffed with a baby lamb. It is probably just as well...

Luckily, Marcella's version is made with veal and chicken, blended with fresh ricotta and parmigiano-reggiano ~ rolled into tender lettuce leaves.
The chicken and veal are cooked in butter then minced.
The minced meat is added to a bowl with tender veggies, herbs and ricotta.
The tender lettuce leaves are blanched to soften them, then stuffed with the meat mixture.
The lettuce rolls are tightly packed into a large saucepan then covered with meat stock (that I had made ahead and frozen).
The whole pot simmers for 30 minutes.
The lettuce rolls are served over a slice of toasted bread and covered with the thickened broth. Next time I will be a little more patient and reduce the broth after removing the tender lettuce rolls.
As lovely as this is... I think next Easter we will still have to have sugar ham and sweet potato souffle for Easter. Marcella and Victor are invited to a southern feast!
Ciao y'all,

May 15, 2010

Clam Soup


Marcella says, "Italy has enough soups for a lifetime." This chapter has been wonderful, and I was happy to get the recipe for "Clam Soup". Though I live out in the California desert, I was able to get fresh clams. They were not the beautiful little tiny ones I enjoy in coastal cities or Italy, but I had to make due with these rather large littleneck clams from Bristol Farms.

After cleaning the clams well, saute olive oil, shallots, garlic and parsley. Add some white wine and red chili pepper, and those clams go in the pot. The clams are removed as soon as they open, and you have a simple and oh so delicious dinner!
Now I am craving pasta with clams! Such simple ingredients, and such wonderful flavors. Buonissimo!

May 16, 2010

Clam and Pea Soup

This soup was my second try with littleneck clams in this challenge. I was really looking forward to this because the base of the soup is clams, onions, garlic, clam juice and parsley. This is also the base to the linguini with clams recipe that I make, which is one of my favorite dishes. Unfortunately, the other main ingredient in this soup is peas and I mean a lot of peas. I don’t usually have a problem with peas, but this combination really didn’t appeal to me. I think I am used to having the clams with an overall savory flavor, but the peas really added a sweetness that I found overwhelming. Maybe it was the choice of peas that I used that caused the problem. I didn’t find any palatable fresh peas so I went with an organic frozen pea. I could see how that might make a difference with this recipe.

This recipe was relatively easy to put together. Washing the clams and then steaming them to start. I then filtered the clam juice and cut the clams into thirds. In the meantime, I sautéed some onions until translucent, added chopped garlic and cooked until golden brown, then added parsley and diced Nina tomatoes in their juices. This cooked for about 10 minutes. I then added the clam juice and peas and cooked this until the peas were done. I added salt and fresh ground pepper. The last addition was the chopped clams. This cooked for a short time and was then served with crostini.


Marcella’s crostini is made by frying bread in vegetable oil. I used a small loaf of rosemary olive oil bread. This was a great choice and even my son, the pickiest eater around loved it.


I have to say one of my favorite parts of every new recipe that I make is actually reading the recipe. Marcella spends so much time making sure that we know how to do every thing the right way. In this recipe she walked us through how to know which clams to use, how many times to scrub them, and the ins and outs of why we need to do each step. It is very refreshing. I am learning more every day. I thought I was a reasonably knowledgeable cook, but I have learned more in the last 8 weeks than I care to admit!!

May 17, 2010

Mussel Soup

Mussel Soup is my last recipe for the soup section. I’ve had this dish many times before but did not know it was considered a soup. This is also the first time I’ve had it prepared without wine. In the Midwest, finding fresh mussels can be a challenge. Fortunately for me local grocers had them in abundance in time for this recipe.

Garlic is sautéed in oil then simmered with parsley, chili pepper and tomatoes for a while before adding the mussels. They are cooked just until the shells have opened. The soup is served ladled over a slice of garlic rubbed toasted bread. The bread soaks up the juices and becomes a delicious accompaniment.

Mussel Soup

©2010 Irene D. Ericson

May 18, 2010

Squid and Artichoke Soup

Several times in my life I’ve bravely attempted to eat the fried calamari served by a seafood themed chain restaurant. One of those land-locked restaurants belonging to the same big corporation that owns the restaurants with “chefs” who are trained in a Tuscan “culinary institute”.


With tough, chewy deep fried rubber bands as my point of reference you can understand why I have always disliked squid. When I went through my assigned recipes and found I had not one but THREE of the eight recipes in the book featuring squid, I wondered what the gods had against me.

I wasn’t looking forward to wasting all that tender, delicious artichoke on squid. But, I signed up for this project with my eyes wide open. So off to Global Foods I went, to buy the frozen squid. Thankfully it was already cleaned and ready to prepare, no messy ink or guts to have to worry about.

Prep was easy, enough. Slice the squid into rings; shave the trimmed artichoke finely; chop the garlic and parsley.


After the initial sauté I added the wine. I was a little surprised at the recommended cooking time for the squid – 40 minutes. Wow, when I ordered calamari it only took a few minutes to be delivered. After adding the artichoke I cooked another 15 minutes or so. That means the squid cooked for almost an hour all told.


Additional seasoning and it was ready to pour over the slices of garlic bread in our bowls. It did smell wonderful. The broth was rich and flavorful. The artichokes were tender and buttery. The squid passed the grandson test with flying colors. Of course he had never tasted it in any form before, so he didn't have preconceptions to overcome. Plus, what four-year-old can resist food that can be used as a prop to clown around?


And what about my opinion? Let's just say that I'm anticipating with relish to my next two squid recipes.

May 22, 2010

Tomato Sauce with Heavy Cream

. . . and now we move into the pasta and sauces chapter. Oh wow - there goes the diet. I was so hoping to wedge into some of the Italian clothing I see when I get to Bologna in two weeks. Yes, I did say two weeks . . . but I'm meandering here.

Anyway, today I say 'goodbye' to soups and move full-on into pasta and sauces.

I do believe that this section of 'Essentials' is particularly brilliant. Marcella gives explicit instructions for making the perfect pasta dish. Frankly, if one reads this section and still manages to plate undercooked and improperly sauced pasta they should be banned from the kitchen forthwith. With Marcella's advice in hand, anything less than pasta perfection will not be tolerated. No, it shall not.

I actually ready this section the way one reads a gripping novel, each paged turned, one after another, not wanting the flow of words to stop.

Sure I am food obsessed. I fully confess to that. However, Marcella's writing is so full of character and she imparts such words of wisdom that you can not help but love it.

I appreciated how she tackled the manner in which non-Italians abroad view Italian food - a big plate of overcooked pasta doused with boring tomato sauce. She cautions the serious cook to not be put off by this . . . tomato sauce need not taste like a can of 'Primo' nor a jar of 'Ragu'.

Marcella writes:

no flavour expresses more clearly the genius of Italian cooks than the freshness, the immediacy, the richness of good tomatoes adroitly matched to the most suitable choice of pasta.

With a description like this one has to be excited to have a go at one of her recipes.

My first selection was Tomato Sauce with Heavy Cream. This is not a complex preparation by any stretch of the imagination - perfect, ripe tomatoes, butter, a small quality of carrots, celery, and onion, and cream. That is it. While I love basil, garlic, and oregano it is a treat to make Italian food that isn't full of such stereotypical 'Italian' flavours.

With a recipe like this it is imperative that you use the best ingredients; trying to use anything less than that will result in a substandard effort that will leave you unhappy. There is enough unhappiness in the world - make a good meal and spread some happiness. :-)

The cook is advised that this sauce goes particularly well with stuffed pasta or the spinach ricotta gnocchi on p. 262. I made it with both. Yes, we loved it. You might be familiar with that beast known as 'Blush Sauce' - essentially this is what this is. I can guarantee you that if you make everything carefully using the finest ingredients this will taste as close to the wee plastic container of blush sauce that you picked up in the grocery store as cubic zirconium compares to a well-cut diamond.

This was a very good sauce! Thanks Marcella!

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Pomodori e Vino in the Soups category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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