Home Cooking > Hearty Soups for Winter

One of my best friends once said, “Soup in a can should stay there.” I could not agree more.

It is so easy to make a good soup, and once you do, you won’t reach for a can opener again! When you make soup, you are in control of the ingredients—which are often right in your refrigerator or pantry. Carrots, onions, celery, parsley, tomatoes and zucchini are favorites. Herbs add great flavor to soups, as do the rinds from Parmigianino Reggiano cheese.

Making a rich broth—which means simmering the ingredients in water—requires some type of meat, poultry or fish. For a really tasty chicken broth, use the wings and thighs; they provide great flavor. For a beef broth, use beef shin, and for fish-based broth, shrimp shells and lobster bodies work great. Vegetables, herbs and water are the basis for vegetarian-based soups.

For a stock, begin by roasting meat bones and vegetables, then add them to a stock pot, and cover the ingredients with water and allow them to simmer with aromatic herbs, peppercorns and whole bay leaves. Sometimes I add whole cloves, tying them up in small pieces of cheesecloth and dropping them in the simmering liquid. Stocks are usually strained, so they are clear and are used to create soups and sauces with depth of flavor—often without salt.

One of the tricks I use when making chicken- or beef-bone-based soups is to make them ahead. Then, refrigerate the soup so any fat congeals and rises to the top. The next day, before heating and serving, skim and discard the fat.

The soup world is infinite—and the cook is limited only by his or her imagination.

Mary Ann Esposito’s Soup Recipes

<br><b>Alphabet Soup</b>
Makes About 2 quarts

<i>Who does not recall spelling out his or her name in steaming bowls of alphabet soup as a child? For me, it is an enduring memory of good comfort-food from home. In this simple but tasty soup, tiny alphabet pasta is cooked in boiling homemade vegetable broth, which can be made ahead and frozen so it is always on hand. The secret to the flavor of this soup is the long cooking time.</i>

2 onions, peeled and quartered
2 leeks, bulb only, cut into quarters
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into chunks
2 potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 ribs celery, cut into chunks
5 ripe plum tomatoes, cut into chunks
1 large clove garlic, peeled
1 small bunch fresh Italian parsley
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed
4 or 5 cloves
Fine sea salt, to taste
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
8 cups water
1 cup alphabet macaroni

1. Put all the ingredients except the macaroni in a large stockpot and bring to a boil
over high heat. reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered for 2 hours.
2. Place a large colander lined with a damp cheesecloth over a large bowl. Strain
the broth through the colander, pressing the vegetables with the back of a wooden
spoon to release all the juices. Discard the solids in the colander.
3. return the soup to a soup pot and bring to a boil. add the macaroni and cook until
the pasta is <i>al dente</i>. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve immediately.

<i>Note:</i> Cubes of fresh mozzarella cheese are delicious stirred into the soup just before serving.

<i>From Mangia Pasta by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1998.</i>

Sausage and Barley Soup
Makes 8 -10 servings

2/3 cup barley
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks fennel, diced
1 sweet red pepper, diced
1 28-ounce can whole plum
tomatoes, diced, juice reserved
1 zucchini, diced
1/4 cup minced parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1. Put the barley in a pot and cover it with 2 1/2 cups of water. Cook until tender, then drain in colander and set aside in a bowl.
2. Cook the sausage in a nonstick skillet with 1/4 cup water. When the water turns gray, drain and cook the sausage until nicely browned. Transfer the sausage to a cutting board and allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Then slice the meat into 1/4- inch thick rounds and refrigerate until needed.
3. Put the onion, celery, carrots, fennel and sweet red pepper in a soup pot. Just cover the ingredients with water. Place a lid on the pot and allow the vegetables to cook over medium heat until they soften, about 5 minutes.
4. Stir in the tomatoes, their juice and 2 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat to medium and cook the soup for 5 minutes. Stir in the zucchini and parsley, and cook 2 minutes longer. Add the sausage and barley to the soup. Cover the pot and cook 2 minutes longer, just until everything is hot. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes, and serve.

Recipe courtesy of Mary Ann Esposito, www.ciaoitalia.com.

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