Italian cooking is revered for its simplicity and for its use of the freshest and most natural ingredients. Italian vegetable soup is made differently by every Italian cook, but the one thing that all versions have in common is the freshness of the vegetables and herbs and the way in which the layers of flavor deepen and blend as it simmers, filling your home with the rich and savory scent.
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
Dry white wine
3 tbsp tomato paste
3 tbsp sugar
1 zucchini, diced
1 yellow squash, diced
1 can white beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup broccoli, chopped
1/2 cup cauliflower, chopped
1/4 cup Italian green beans
Coarse black pepper
Fresh basil, chopped
- Coat the bottom of a large stock pot with a thin layer of olive oil. Heat the oil over medium heat until the surface of the oil starts to shimmer and you can smell its scent.
- Stir in the garlic, onions, carrots and celery, making sure that they are well coated in the hot oil.
- Sprinkle a generous amount of kosher salt over the vegetables. Cook and stir them for about 20 minutes until they are soft. Turn the heat down if the vegetables begin to stick or the garlic begins to brown. You can also add a bit more water or another splash of olive oil if necessary.
- Deglaze the pot with enough dry white wine to just cover the bottom of the pot. Stir the vegetables to scrape up any that might be sticking. Simmer the vegetables in the wine for 5 to 8 minutes or until the wine reduces a bit.
- Sprinkle the sugar over the vegetables and stir in the tomato paste, making sure that it is well incorporated.
- Tie 2 to 3 bay leaves and several sprigs of thyme and rosemary into a small bundle with cooking twine and toss it into the pot.
- Add the white beans, diced tomatoes and enough vegetable stock to cover all of the vegetables with about 2 inches to spare. Simmer the soup, stirring it occasionally, for at least 20 minutes.
- Coat the bottom of a skillet with olive oil and heat it over medium-high heat. Add the zucchini and yellow squash and cook them until they start to turn brown and crisp. This keeps them from getting mushy in the soup. When they have browned around the edges, add them to the stock pot.
- Add the broccoli, cauliflower and Italian green beans to the soup. Let it simmer about 10 minutes or until the broccoli and cauliflower are just cooked through.
- Stir in enough cooked, small pasta shapes like ditalini or little shells to stand up to the vegetables, about 1 to 1 1/2 cups.
- Remove the bundled herbs and correct the seasoning with kosher salt if needed and cracked black pepper.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and top with a generous spoonful each of chopped basil and shaved, fresh Parmesan cheese. Serve with hot, crusty bread.
- For a heartier soup, add chopped bacon or pancetta to the olive oil when you first start cooking the vegetables and use chicken broth instead of vegetable broth.
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