With a big bunch of spinach wilting in the fridge, I went to Gourmet.com and sifted through a few pages of search results before I found this Vegetable Soup with Basil and Garlic Sauce. It couldn’t have been more perfect.
The first ingredient was fennel bulb, which is something I’ve been looking for a reason to buy lately since it is normally expensive in the States, but here I got a bulb for the equivalent of 33 cents. The next ingredient was pancetta, which usually indicates a recipe will be delicious, plus, I had some in the fridge. Carrots, cabbage, zuchinni, potatoes, onion? All things I already had. I picked up some fennel and white beans, and decided to skip or substitute anything else.
Instead of basil-garlic pistou, I used a version of chimichurri I had made the night before. Chimichurri is the It-sauce in the States right now, but it’s an Argentine classic made from chopped parsley, garlic, oil and a few other ingredients. Also making my soup a little more Argentine was the reggianito cheese I used in lieu of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
The addition of garlic-herb sauce is what really takes this soup to incredible heights. The combination of vegetables and beans and pancetta is quite good, but the broth would be a little bland without the shot of adrenaline from the pistou or chimichurri. As a whole, it’s a hearty but not too heavy soup, perfect for these cool days in Buenos Aires before spring arrives. Or for the start of fall, if you’re in the opposite hemisphere.
Vegetable Soup with Pistou
Adapted from Gourmet.com
- 1 small fennel bulb (sometimes called anise)
- 1/4 lb sliced pancetta, chopped
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I left this out)
- 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I say wash, but don’t bother peeling)
- 1/4 small cabbage, cored and chopped (2 cups)
- 1 (2-inch) piece of rind cut from a wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano (I subbed the rind of reggianito, a similar cheese from Argentina. This isn’t the most necessary ingredient, but it gives nice depth of flavor.)
- 2 small yellow summer squash or zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 medium boiling potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used several small potatoes)
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme (Instead I used a few pinches of dried herbs of Provence)
- 1 bay leaf (not California…California bay leaves are much stronger than other bay laurel leaves)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 9 cups water
- 1 (10-oz) package frozen baby lima beans (I skipped this)
- 1/2 lb haricots verts or other thin green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (didn’t add these either)
- 1 (15- to 19-oz) can cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed
- 5 oz baby spinach (5 cups)
Cut fennel stalks flush with bulb, discarding them, and trim off any tough outer layers from bulb. Chop fennel into 1/2-inch pieces.
Cook pancetta in oil in a 7- to 9-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in fennel, onion, turnip, carrots, and cabbage and cook, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is wilted, 5 to 7 minutes. Add cheese rind, squash, potato, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, salt, and water and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes. Add lima beans, green beans, and cannellini and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Discard cheese rind, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf. Stir in spinach and season with salt and pepper. Serve with pistou.
Instead of this I used a version of chimichurri with garlic, flat-leaf parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- 3 large garlic cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 oz grated parmesan (1/3 cup)
Mince and mash garlic to a paste with salt (or pound with a mortar and pestle). Blend with basil in a food processor until basil is finely chopped. Add oil and cheese and purée.
Top soup with a spoonful of pistou, then stir.
As with most soups and stews, this is even better on Day 2.