The word “soup” has even developed several uses in phrase, becoming a figure of speech, for example, "soup's on" is a common phrase that means "dinner's ready."
At dinner or otherwise, when it comes to ladling out servings of this common primo, Italians have a number of delectable variations. Many regional soups have humble beginnings as peasant food that was made by utilizing inexpensive ingredients and stretching out valuable ones.
A prosciutto bone or parmigiano rind is often as valuable as gold when it comes to flavouring a bubbling broth. Recipes vary according to region; rice and pastas are features of northern soups while bean soups are a Tuscan specialty; tomato and garlic are common flavouring agents in the south, and coastal regions create soups using seafood.
Ingredients in season also play an important role. Dried beans and grains are used in winter when vegetables aren't readily available, while tomatoes, artichokes and green beans are used in summer and wild mushrooms are often the fruits of autumn soups.
Perhaps the most recognizable of all soups is the "big soup”, or minestrone. Every region has its own take on the tomato-based soup that contains a variety of mixed vegetables (typically carrots, celery, and potatoes), beans and small pasta such as maccheroni. Recipes for this beloved brodo are plentiful and incorporate regional trends — coastal regions add shellfish while inland regions utilize sausage or other meats.
In Veneto, for example, minestrone is rendered incredibly creamy thanks to a healthy number of potatoes and it also incorporates spinach, beet greens and fennel; in Liguria, it is made with radicchio and pesto; in Abruzzo, it is commonly made with chestnuts; and in Sardinia, with chick peas and pork rind.
Ribollita is similar to minestrone, but it's not as brothy and doesn't contain pasta. This Tuscan soup is actually the reincarnation of minestra di pane and it's a wonderful use for crusty Tuscan bread.
This robust winter zuppa is made with cavolo nero and a variety of other winter greens, cabbage and cannellini beans. The minestra is layered and absorbed into pieces of bread making a hearty potage. When it is served immediately it is referred to as bread soup, however, when it is reheated or re-boiled and served the next day (incidentally only making it better), it is called ribollita.
From southern Italy where seafood is abundant comes the zuppa di pesce. This traditional seafood soup is an opportunity to use the freshest local ingredients and typically utilizes the varied catch of the day, firm textured white fish, shellfish, tomato, herbs and white wine. Aside from being mere sustenance, soups are also celebratory.
Take for example the Roman rag soup otherwise known as stracciatella. This flavourful broth featuring shreds created from beaten eggs and cheese is often enjoyed on Easter Sunday. Minestra maritata or “wedding soup” is served up at Christmas in Lazio and Campania. The name of this soup is a reference to the “marriage” of ingredients: meat broth, meatballs, cooked greens and pasta. This soup was often served to newlyweds to give them strength for their wedding night.
Other common bowlfuls across the peninsula include jota, the bean and sauerkraut soup from Trieste; supa de scigol, a Milanese version of onion soup featuring Taleggio (the runny cheese from east of Lake Como); and Zuppa Gallurese from Sardinia, prepared in layers resembling a casserole, consisting of bread, savoy cabbage, provolone, pecorino and chicken stock.
A discussion on soup would not be complete without a look at the recipe considered the cornerstone of Italian soup-making: pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans). This is classic peasant food from central Italy. The recipe travelled easily with early immigrants and became a wellknown starter in North America as well.
No matter the soup, what’s important to note is that each ingredient enhances the others; each batch has its own characteristics, and it needs time to simmer to reach full flavour.
500 g dried white beans, washed and • soaked overnight
• 1 small onion, diced
• 1 small carrot, diced
• 1 celery stalk, diced
• 1 small bunch of parsley, chopped
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 500 g cavolo nero or kale, shredded
• 500 g beet greens, ribbed and shredded
• 250 g potatoes, peeled and diced
• Salt, pepper, and a sprig of thyme
• Thinly sliced day old crusty Italian bread
In a pot submerge the beans with salted, cold water (2 inches of water should surpass the beans). Boil until tender, adding more water if necessary. Sauté the onion, carrot, celery and parsley in olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot. When the onion has become translucent, add the tomato paste and the liquid from the beans. Then a dd the cabbage, beet greens, and potatoes.
Stir in the beans and season to taste with salt, pepper, and a sprig of thyme. Simmer until the potatoes are done. Remove the thyme. Take a fairly deep ovenproof serving dish and layer it with soup, alternating with sliced bread.
CANONICA A CERRETO
CHIANTI CLASSICO 2008
Soc. Agr. Canonica A Cerreto
$16.95 (VINTAGES 283697)
This bright ruby red Chianti presents red cherry notes accompanied by delicate sweet spicy hints courtesy of 12 months of ageing in oak barriques. Soft tannins reveal the presence of 10% Merlot grapes. The medium body and pleasant aftertaste of blackberries make it a suitable companion for many tomato-based Tuscan dishes
• 2 litres simmering broth
(beef or vegetable)
• 1/2 cup dried beans
(individual bean or mixed)
• 1 clove of garlic, crushed
• 1 bunch of chopped parsley
• 1 carrot, diced
• 1 celery stalk, diced
• 1 zucchini, diced
• 1 small onion, minced
• 1 potato, diced (sweet potato can be used for added colour and flavour)
• 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, or canned plum tomatoes
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Boiling water
• Grated Parmigiano
• 1/2 cup rice or short pasta such as maccheroni or ditali (optional)
Soak the dried beans overnight. Place all the vegetables, beans and broth in a large pot and simmer. Allow to cook for approximately 2 hours. Check the beans and potatoes for doneness and check for seasoning. If desired, cooked rice or pasta can be added to the minestrone separately. If the soup becomes too thick add some boiling water. Serve the soup with the grated cheese and a drizzle of olive oil.
ZENATO SERGIO ZENATO
Azienda Vinicola Zenato
$26.95 (VINTAGES 928218)
Made from 100% Trebbiano di Lugana grapes, the 2009 Lugana Riserva is aged in French oak for twelve months. The barrel ageing imparts buttery and vanilla notes that, once given a few minutes in the glass, will blend nicely with more fresh and fruity accents of peach and grapefruit. Golden in colour, this well balanced and medium bodied wine will give its best with lake fish or light vegetable soups
Farnese Vini srl
$ 15.95 (VINTAGES 289538)
This enjoyable Falanghina is produced on the volcanic soils near Mount Vesuvius. Pleasant mineral notes accompany hints of citrus fruits, apple and herbs that linger on the palate. The right balance of acidity and alcohol makes this wine a good pairing for white meats and vegetable or egg-based soups.
ZUPPA DI PESCE
CA' DEI MANDORLI LA
BELLALDA BARBERA D'ASTI
$ 15.95 (VINTAGES 264598)
Barbera grapes here deliver a deep ruby red wine with complex and ripe bouquet of cherry, plum and blackberry. Good acidity and the right amount of tannins create a nice structure with fresh but full, lingering notes on the palate. Ideal with robust pasta dishes and legumes.