Incredibly, almost a year has gone by since I last posted a soup recipe. I eat soup at least once a week, no matter the season, for lunch and/or dinner, so I have no idea how this unforgivable omission happened.
Let me fix it.
Let me offer you a bowl of this soup, which is filled with all good things: carrots, celery, onions, chick peas and grains, and a touch of saffron. It’s a typical country soup, with plenty of possibilities for variation. I made it for dinner and am having leftovers for lunch. The soup thickens in the fridge overnight so I like to warm it in a pot until it’s like porridge and top it with a fried egg.
Pretty soon, in about a week’s time, I’ll be making a similar soup with our Abruzzo Presto culinary tour group. It won’t be exactly like this soup because we’ll be making it in a professional kitchen in Sulmona, and we’ll be shopping for our ingredients at the morning mercato in Sulmona’s Piazza Garibaldi.
We’re going to be cooking all’improviso, in the moment, letting ourselves be guided by what the season and the vendors have to offer. (My spies over there tell me that there are still plenty of tomatoes, as well as fresh borlotti beans and braided strands of Sulmona’s famous red garlic.)
So even though I don’t quite know how our soup in Sulmona is going to turn out, I do know that it will be filled with good things.
* * * * *
Chick peas, farro and saffron. These three ingredients are cultivated in the hills and fields of Abruzzo and are the culinary stars in many traditional dishes from the region, including soups such as this one. This is one of those soups that gets thicker and thicker the longer it sits. If you have leftovers, heat them up the next day and enjoy them as a porridge, with a fried egg on top.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1/2 small yellow or red onion, diced
- 2 medium carrots, diced
- 1 clove garlic, lightly crushed
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1 yellow summer squash, diced
- 2 cups cooked chick peas
- 5 to 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cups farro, rinsed and drained
- Small piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
- Generous pinch of saffron threads
- Salt to taste
Measure the oil into a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot and set over medium-low heat. When the oil is warm, stir in the onion, carrots, garlic and parsley. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened and the carrot is bright orange, about 7 minutes. Add the zucchini and squash and cook, continuing to stir from time to time, until the vegetables are just tender, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the chick peas. Cook for a few minutes, until the chick peas are heated through. Raise the heat to medium-high and pour in 5 cups of broth. Bring to a simmer and stir in the farro and 1 teaspoon salt. Toss in the Parmigiano rind. When the soup comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low or low to maintain a gentle simmer.
Crush the saffron threads to reduce them to a powder (I use a mortar and pestle but any heavy object, including a meat pounder, will do. Spoon a little of the hot broth from the soup into a small bowl and stir in the pulverized saffron. Pour the saffron broth back into the soup pot and continue to cook at a gentle simmer, stirring from time to time, for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the farro is tender but still pleasantly chewy. Add another cup or so of broth, as needed, if the soup is too thick. Taste and season with more salt if you like.
Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle a few drops of olive oil over each serving.
NOTE You can make all sorts of variations to this soup. To simplify it even further, omit the zucchini and carrots and just make it about the farro, chick peas and saffron. To bolster it a bit, add a diced potato or a handful of greens. To make it "in rosso" add a cup or so of crushed tomatoes.