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How to build an Italian soup

Roasted and curried butternut squash soup
Matt Harvey
Roasted and curried butternut squash soup

The layering of flavors for Italian Soups

Adopted from www.newitalianrecipes.com

Here is an example of starting a basic Italian soup, and layering flavors. There are no quantities for most ingredients, since this is just an example of layering.

“Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add 1 Tablespoon butter, to oil.

Then add chopped or finely minced onions, green bell pepper and celery. (If using carrot mirepoix, add this now, also). All of these work fine in almost any Italian soup or stew recipe. The lower you have the heat, the longer you will have to enjoy the essence of these incredibly aromatic vegetables and the more of their tasty juices will be released. Tip: Sprinkle some salt over the vegetables when you first add them, and they will release more juices faster. Cover the pan as you cook the vegetables, over low heat, and more juices will be retained.

Flip the vegetables a few times when you first add them to coat with oil and butter.

Now, add 2-3 cloves of sliced garlic. Why sliced? Because it has less tendency to burn than if it is minced. Just crush it a little with the flat of a knife and slice thinly.

After the garlic is combined in for a minute or two, add some wine. Let it evaporate for a couple of minutes and add some balsamic vinegar. It's hard to believe, I know, but any decent grade of balsamic vinegar "sweetens" a dish and adds a really excellent layer of flavor.

After the liquid is almost absorbed, add some ground herbs and spices. We like to buy at least some of our spices whole, then grind them in a spice-designated coffee grinder or spice grinder.

Now, if there is no natural thickening agent in the soup you are making (potatoes or other starchy vegetable), you can add some flour at this point, about 2 Tablespoons. Stir it in and let it absorb and combine with other ingredients.

Then, add whatever stock you're using, plus tomatoes, potatoes, whatever else is left. Let it all simmer for 20 minutes or so, for flavors to marry; (if potatoes are in the recipe, you may need to let simmer for 30-35 minutes. Test their doneness with a fork or tooth pick).

Add meat near the end. If chicken or beef, brown in olive oil first. Or use chicken from the fine stock you made earlier. If fish or shell fish, just add them in raw about 6-8 minutes before you plan on removing from the heat. (It will continue to cook for a time, so seafood does not have to be completely done before you remove the Italian soup or stew from the heat.)”

If you follow this process, varying the vegetables and stocks you use, you can create any number of great soups.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.