Saturday, October 20, 2007

Italian Soups

With the onset of cooler weather here, my mind has been on the wonderful, warming soups of my childhood. Here are a few of my favorites:

Creamy Italian Tomato Soup

  • 2 Tbl butter

  • 1 onion, thinly sliced

  • 2-1/4 lbs plum tomatoes, peeled. seeded, and sliced

  • 2 potatoes, diced

  • scant 1/2 cup heavy cream

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, to serve at table

  • Croutons to serve at table

  1. Melt butter in pan, add onion and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until softened. Add tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, pour in 3 cups water, add the potatoes, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for one hour. Transfer to a food processor or blender, and process to a puree, then return to pan. Reheat, then stir in cream. Pour into soup tureen, and serve with Parmesan and croutons.

Ricotta Dumplings in Broth

  • For the Ricotta dumplings:

  • generous 1 cup Ricotta cheese

  • 1 egg

  • 2-1/2 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for coating

  • pinch of nutmeg

  • 4 cups Beef Stock (see below)

  • 3 Tbl olive oil

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, to pass at table

  • For the Beef Stock:

  • 1-1/2 lbs lean beef, cut into cubes

  • 1 lb, 5 oz. veal, cut into cubes

  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped

  • 1 carrot, coarsely chopped

  • 1 leek, trimmed and coarsely chopped

  • 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped

  • salt to taste

  1. Directions for Beef Stock: Place meat in large pan, and add cold water to cover, bring to a boil slowly over medium low heat. Skim off any fat that comes to the surface, and add onion, carrot, leek, and celery - season with salt to taste. Lower heat and simmer for about 3-1/2 hours. Remove from heat, strain into a bowl, let cool, then chill in refrigerator. When fat has solidified on the surface, carefully remove and discard.

  2. Directions for Ricotta Dumplings: Beat Ricotta with a wooden spoon until smooth, then stir in the egg, flour, and nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste. Shape mixture into small dumplings the size of hazelnuts. Coat dumplings lightly in flour. Bring Beef Stock to a boil over low heat. Heat oil in skillet, add the dumplings, and cook until golden brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels. Put dumplings in soup tureen and ladle the stock over them. Serve immediately, passing bowl of Parmesan at the table.

Chicken Passatelli (Chicken Soup with Italian Dumplings)

  • 2 slices white bread, torn into rough chunks

  • 2 large eggs

  • I cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I highly recommend Parmigiano-Reggiano), plus more to pass at table

  • Pinch of nutmeg

  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 2 quarts prepared chicken stock

  • 2 Tbl minced fresh parsley leaves

  1. Preheat oven to 300F. Grind bread in food processor. Measure 1/2 cup bread crumbs onto a small baking sheet. Toast until lightly dried, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Combine bread crumbs, eggs, Parmesan, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Refrigerate mixture until firm, about 15 minutes. With moistened hands, roll tespoonfuls of bread mixture into grape-sized balls. Bring the stock to a boil in a large stockpot over medium heat, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Drop the dumplings into the gently simmering stock and cook until they float to the surface, and are cooked, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in parsley, and adjust seasonings if necessary. Ladle soup and dumplings into bowls and serve immediately, passing extra cheese at the table.

Chicken Straciatella (Italian Chicken and Egg Soup)

  • 2 quarts prepared chicken stock

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil or fresh parsley leaves (your preference - either give wonderful flavor)

  • pinch of nutmeg

  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Bring the stock to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir the eggs, Parmesan cheese,basil or parsley, and nutmeg together with a fork in a medium bowl. Stir the stock with a FORK so it is moving in a circle. Be sure to use a fork, and no other utensil, so the egg 'rags' will be properly formed. Keep stirring as you pour the egg mixture into the stock in a slow, steady stream so that shreds of coagulated egg form, about 1 minute. Let the egg shreds stand in the stock without stirring until they set, less than one minute. Once they have set, break up the egg pieces with a fork. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

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