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Gourmet Pastas and Sauces on-line

eating better: italian soups
by Alice Ann Pazzaglia
(return to food)

This is the first of a multi-part series which will examine how we can change our eating habits to make us healthier. In this article we will explore what Italians eat for dinner and concentrate on soup.

My New Year's cooking and eating resolutions:

  • I will use only olive oil in my cooking.
  • I will eat fish 3 times a week.
  • I will eat a small dinner of freshly made soup.
  • I will eat more greens.
All over Italy the main meal of the day is lunch. As a consequence, dinner is really supper and Italians eat less at dinner than they do at lunch. This makes sense because after dinner people relax, try not to do much and then go to bed.

Italian dinner meals usually consist of the following, but not all together and not limited to, light foods such as : soup, bread, cheese, vegetables, fruit, salad, prosciutto and eggs.

In this article we will examine soup. Soup can be made out of almost anything from Bean, to Bread, Broth, Chicken, Creme, Fish, Fruit, Minestrone, Pasta, and Vegetable.

We will consider vegetable soups and minestrone as the most appropriate for an evening meal. However, if you would like a recipe from any of the other categories, please feel free to post your question in the food forum.

I live in San Francisco where people are wild about soup. It is a popular starter at all the best restaurants. At work, we can log on to the cafeteria via the internet and find out the soup of the day.

NOTE: Parmesan cheese is usually sprinkled over soup and often fresh olive oil is added.
related books...

Good & Garlicky, Thick & Hearty, Soul-Satisfying More Than Minestrone Italian Soup Cookbook

Soups of Italy

Zuppa! Soups from the Italian Countryside

This is the famous Tuscan soup which visitors remember long after their trips to Italy.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus 1/2 cup
1 medium red onion, chopped into 1/2 inch dice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, scraped and chopped into 1/4 inch half moons
2 ribs celery, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
2 waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 cups white cannellini or brown borlotti beans, soaked and cooked perfectly
4 cups reserved bean liquid
1 cup basic tomato sauce
1 bunch Swiss chard, chopped into 1/2 inch ribbons
1 bunch kale, chopped into 1/2 inch ribbons
1 bunch black cabbage (cavolo nero), chopped into 1/2 inch ribbons
Garnish: 4 slices country bread, toasted
1/2 cup grated parmigiano

In a large 8 quart pot, heat oil, onion and garlic together and cook until soft. Add carrots, celery, potatoes, 2 cups of beans, 4 cups of bean cooking liquid (or water) and basic tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Lower heat, add chard, kale, black cabbage and simmer 1 1/2 hours until everything is soft. Add remaining beans and adjust seasoning. Allow to cool and rest overnight.

The following day, bring to a boil and serve in shallow bowls over toasted bread. Sprinkle with parmigiano to taste.

Serves: 4

Tomato- Fennel Soup with Gremolata
Gremolata is a parsley and lemon peel mixture commonly used in Italy with osso buco.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups finely chopped fennel bulb
1 28-ounce can Italian-style tomatoes, drained, juices reserved
2 2/3 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds
4 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel

For soup heat oil in heavy large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add chopped fennel bulb; saut� until tender but not brown, about 6 minutes. Add drained tomatoes; saut� 5 minutes. Add reserved tomato juices, stock and lemon juice. Cover; simmer 15 minutes. Puree soup in blender in batches until smooth. Return to pan. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

For Gremolata, mix all ingredients in small bowl.

Bring soup to simmer. Ladle into bowls. Stir spoonful of gremolata into each bowl and serve.

4 servings

Passato di Verdure - Blender Soup
This is the most common soup made at home in Italy

1 lb vegetables and greens in season
1/2 onion
1 tsp tomato paste
2 potatoes, diced
2 q water
2 tbsp olive oil
2 beef or chicken cubes
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup rice (optional)
grated parmesan cheese

In a 4-q pot place mixed vegetables. Add some celery and 1/2 onion, both chopped. Also add 1 tsp tomato paste and 2 potatoes, diced. Add 2 q water, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 beef or chicken cubes (I prefer Knorr) and boil until the vegetables are cooked, about 1 hour. Let cool a bit and pass in blender. Pour back into pan and bring back to boil. Add 1/2 tbsp butter. If so desired, 1/2 cup cooked rice can be added at this point. Serve hot, with lots of grated parmesan cheese.

1 1/2 cups minced onion
1 1/2 cups minced carrot
1 1/2 cups minced celery
1/4 cup olive oil
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes, including liquid
6 cups chicken stock or water
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
salt and pepper
1/4 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
1/2 cup small pasta shapes, such as tubetti or shells
1/4 lb. dried cannellini beans,cooked according to package
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup minced fresh basil leaves or parsley

In a casserole over low heat, cook te onion, carrot, and celery in the olive oil, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their liquid, the stock, basil, thyme, fennel, and salt and pepper, and bring the liquid to a boil. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Add the green beans and pasta and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the beans and pasta are just tender. Add the drained cannellini beans, garlic, salt, and pepper, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans are heated through. Stir in the 1/3 cup fresh herbs.

Minestrone Genovese (Vegetable Soup with Pesto)
1 1/3 cups Dried white kidney beans, soaked
8 cups Water
2 large Potatoes, diced
1/2 lb Butternut squash, peeled & diced
3 large Zucchini, chopped finely
1 Tomato, peeled, seeded & chopped
1/3 lb Mushrooms, sliced
1 Carrot, finely chopped
2 Celery ribs, finely chopped
1 large Garlic clove, minced
1 Yellow onion, finely sliced
1/3 cup Olive oil
1 1/2 ts Coarse sea salt
1/2 lb Tubular pasta
2 tb Pesto, see recipe
Olive oil

Drain the beans & combine with the water in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil and cok at a high heat for 10 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for another 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes, squash, zucchini, tomato and mushrooms and cook over medium heat, stirring from time to time. After about 15 minutes, add the carrot, celery, garlic and onion. Simmer for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the olive oil and salt. Continue simmering, pressing the beans and potatoes against the side of the pot to make the soup dense. After another 15 minutes cooking, add the pasta and simmer for 9 or 10 minutes until it is al dente. Just as the heat is turned off, stir in the pesto. Let the soup cool until it is tepid and serve it with drizzles of olive oil on top.

Serves 6

Source: Carol Field, "Italy in Small Bites"

Garlic Soup
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 garlic cloves, quartered
6 slices Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup dry red wine
6 cups vegetable stock, canned or use your favorite homemade stock
1 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy pot, melt butter with olive oil over low heat. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes; be careful not to burn. Add bread to pan and toss. Add wine, stock, and parsley. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low, and cook 10 minutes. Season wit h salt and pepper. Serve.

French Onion Soup
This is not Italian but Italy has adopted it as its own; like pizza in the U.S.A.

3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound yellow onions, peeled, halved, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
5 cups homemade beef stock
Salt and pepper
4 slices French bread (diagonally cut, 1/2-inch thick)
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyere cheese

Heat butter and oil in a heavy saucepan. Add onions and sugar. Saute, stirring often, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add stock, season with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until onions are very tender, about 20 minutes. Preheat broiler. Arrange 4 heat-proof bowls on a baking sheet. Divide soup equally among bowls; float a slice of bread on each serving. Sprinkle cheese over bread. Place baking sheet under broiler and broil until cheese turns dappled golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Serves 4.

Pappa al Pomodoro - Tomato and Bread Soup
6 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves chopped garlic
2 bunches chopped basil
3 lbs. ripe, peeled and seeded tomatoes, cut in large pieces
2 loaves day-old peasant bread cubed
1 pt. beef or chicken broth
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a saucepan, heat 4 Tbs. olive oil, 3 cloves of garlic and half the chopped basil at low heat. Do not brown the garlic. Add the tomatoes and cook far 20 minutes and set aside. In a baking pan, mix 1 Tbs. oil, and the rest of the garlic with the cubed bread. Salt and pepper to taste, and bake until golden. Add stewed tomatoes to the bread and the broth, cook for 10 more minutes. Serve on individual rimmed soup plates with the rest of the basil and a touch of extra virgin olive oil.

Cicoria, cacio e uova - Chicory, Pecorino, and Egg Soup
1 lb. green chicory
2 onions
1/2 cup olive oil
3 eggs
1 qt. broth
4 Tbs. grated pecorino cheese

Green chicory has a fairly bitter taste therefore wash it and let it stay in cool water for one hour. It will then lose some of its bitterness. Boil the chicory, chop and squeeze all the water out and set aside. Cut the onions in julienne and saute with olive oil. When tender, not brown, add the chicory and mix well. Add the beaten eggs which have been previously mixed with the pecorino cheese, saute briskly and place into a pre-heated, large soup tureen, pour the piping hot broth over, stir well and serve.


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