Italians love their soups. They even have multiple words to describe them. Brodos are typically clear broths, zuppe are generally thicker cream soups, and minestra formally means 'the soup course'. In practice, however, the terms are used almost interchangeably. One of my all-time favorites is minestrone, which translates to big soup (the suffix oni means 'big').
I remember soup being something of a staple during my childhood years, but I only remember it coming out of a Campbell’s Soup can – usually chicken noodle, vegetable, vegetable beef, or tomato. Tomato was my favorite by far – always with copious quantities of Nabisco saltines.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Italian Wedding Soup
Pasta e Fagioli
Split Pea and Ham Soup
The same cannot be said for Grandma Karen, however. She is a master soup maker and has been solely responsible for keeping her family’s and guests’ soup bowls filled for nearly five decades. With her permission, I have added some of her favorites (and two of mine) to my recipe collection here. I can assure you they are each worth trying.
She typically begins by making her own beef and chicken stocks. In both stock recipes, the meats and bones are browned before the vegetables and water are added. After simmering for three hours, the stocks are strained, cooled, and the excess fat removed. The stocks can be refrigerated for several days or frozen for several months.
Homemade stocks have two advantages – they have a richer flavor than commercial stocks and you get to control the amount of salt they contain. Nevertheless, it is only fair to note that commercial stocks are very acceptable substitutes and also significantly reduce the preparation time.
In my view, her best soups are her versions of two Italian soups: Minestrone and Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Bean). Everyone loves her Chicken Noodle Soup, and those lucky enough to have experienced it rave about her Split Pea Soup. All are featured here. I hope you will find an occasion to try one of them – with or without the freshly made stock. If you do, I guarantee you will try another!
P.S. Since this is all about soups, I can’t resist mentioning two more of my favorites: Italian Wedding Soup and Clam Chowder. The chowder recipe is straight from the Union Oyster House in Boston.