Some dishes are not made up of exactly measured ingredients because the recipe is an intuitive part of family history. Certain foods define a mood or trace memories shared. In my family zucchini soup is the definitive comfort food. It is not just a simple, thick Italian vegetable soup. It is the soup served at family get togethers. It’s fragrance serves as an unconscious reminder of the good life in Italy, of camping trips and of the entire family talking at the dinner table. It is one of the foods we always asked my Mom to make.
The following recipe is a guideline and is more about proportions than exact quantities. The key to its comfort lies in the balance between the vegetables and potatoes. The soup can be modified as long as the ingredients stay simple and fresh. It is also interesting to note that even the vegetable peels are used to flavor the soup. Choose vegetables fresh from your own garden or from a local organic farmer if at all possible.
- Three zucchini
- Two large potatoes
- Two small carrots
- One sweet white onion or three small shallots
- One stalk of celery
- 40 grams extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- 750 ml vegetable broth made from the vegetable peels
Wash and scrub the vegetables in cold water. Peel the carrots, potatoes, onion and celery. Put the vegetable peels including the onion skins in a pan and add 750 ml water.* If you prefer not to measure, just fill the pan two centimeters above the vegetable peels. Add a teaspoon of sea salt along with a few bay leaves and simmer the vegetables at medium heat for ten minutes.
Cut the onion, zucchini, potatoes, carrots and celery in chunks, equal in size. Heat the olive oil in a soup pan and sauté the onion and celery lightly about five minutes. Add the zucchini, potatoes and carrots and pour the warm vegetable broth over the ingredients. The broth cover up to four centimeters above the vegetables. If the broth is not adequate, add some water and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Finish the soup by mashing the warm ingredients with an old-fashioned food mill. If you don’t have a food mill, an immersion blender will work also. The result should be thick like a smoothy, with recognizable small chunks of vegetables in a pale-green velvet purée. Taste the soup for flavor, adding salt and some ground pepper if needed.
The flavor will improve when the ingredients have the chance to cool slightly. If you have the time, leave the soup on the stove top with the lid on for about an hour. If not, serve warm in nice big bowls with a tiny bit op finely grated Parmesan over the top.
♦ Suggested combinations
Serve this soup as a simple main course with home-baked bread or focaccia. A grated carrot salad with lots of flat leaf parsley dressed with a tart vinaigrette makes for a good match.
In the summer, add three ripe tomatoes to the vegetables and prepare as explained. They give it a freshness that fits with the season. Serve the soup with torn leaves of fresh basil and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for a southern Italian twist.
* Make broth from vegetable scraps only if the vegetables are organic in origin.