Soup for lunch, soup for dinner or soup as a starter… it’s just great to have on hand!
Soup is good for you and it tastes good. A great soup starts with a stock. What is stock? It’s just the liquid you get when you simmer meat, bones or vegetables together with aromatic vegetables and seasonings. This is what forms the major flavor base for a soup.
A homemade vegetable soup is just so much better than anything you’d get in a can. For one thing, only ingredients that you like end up in the soup. Plus, you have the opportunity to make it much healthier. Vegetable soup is also a great way to empty your refrigerator before the next trip to the grocery store — you can put almost any vegetable in a good old-fashioned vegetable soup.
You can add any vegetable you like but it’s a good idea to pick vegetables that go well together. If you add some bitter vegetables, like broccoli, brussel sprouts or turnips, try to balance it with sweeter vegetables like potatoes, carrots or peas.
If you want to avoid overcooking vegetables, add the veggies that need to cook longest first, letting them cook a bit before adding the vegetables that take the least amount of time to cook.
A soup is all about blended flavors. If you use smaller vegetable chunks, you can fit a few different kinds on a spoon and get a better taste. Smaller vegetable pieces also cook faster. The only rule to how much to add is that you should have enough broth to cover all the vegetables.
The last thing that makes up a homemade vegetable soup is the seasoning you add. The broth will tend to reduce the longer the soup cooks. That means that any seasonings added will get more intense as the soup cooks. You can avoid getting an overwhelmingly seasoned soup by adding the seasonings toward the end of the cooking time. There are plenty of seasonings that are suited to soup. Some popular seasonings are: ginger, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, parsley, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper.
How to Make Vegetable Stock
- 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cups chopped onion, onion skins reserved
- 2 cups chopped celery
- 2 cups chopped carrot
- 1 cup chopped parsnips
- 1 cup chopped fennel bulb
- 2 large garlic cloves, smashed (leave skins on)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoons fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 4 bay leaves
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
Place the dried mushrooms in a large bowl and pour 1 quart of boiling water over them. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil over high heat in a large stockpot. Add the chopped onions, celery, carrots and fennel and stir to coat. Sprinkle with salt. Cook over high heat for several minutes, stirring occasionally. Given that there are so many vegetables and they have a high moisture content, it may take more heat and longer time to brown than you would expect. Cook until the vegetables begin to brown.
Add the garlic and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes, or until the tomato paste begins to turn a rusty color. Add the mushrooms and their soaking water, the rosemary, thyme, onion skins, peppercorns, bay leaves, parsley and 4 additional quarts of water. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat down to a simmer. The surface of the stock should just barely be bubbling. Cook for 1 1/2 hours.
Using a spider skimmer or slotted spoon, remove all the big pieces of vegetables. Discard.
Set up a large bowl or pot with a sieve set over it. Line the sieve with a plain paper towel and pour the stock through it. When you have about half the stock poured through, stop, let what’s in the strainer filter through and change the paper towels. Filter the rest of the stock.
To store, pour into glass containers and refrigerate for up to a week.
If you freeze in glass jars, leave at least an inch and a half of headroom, so the stock can expand without breaking the glass of the jar or use freezer ziplock bags.
Makes 5 quarts.
Spring Vegetable Soup
- 7 cups vegetable stock
- 10 small red potatoes, quartered
- 2 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 2 celery ribs, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 large leek, sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- Freshly ground pepper
In a large pot, combine the stock with the red potatoes, carrots, celery, onion and leek. Bring to a boil. Add the salt and simmer over moderately low heat for 30 minutes.
Add the green beans and Italian seasoning and simmer until tender, 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley and season with pepper. Serve.
Creamy Asparagus Soup
- 1 pound fresh asparagus
- 5 cups vegetable stock
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 2 medium-sized potatoes, diced
- Salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste
- 1 cup light cream
- Fresh chopped chives for garnish
Cut the bottom half of the asparagus spears into 2-inch lengths and place in them in a soup pot with the vegetable stock. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove asparagus ends with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander over a bowl, pressing on the stalks to get as much juice from them as possible, then discarding the fibrous stalks. Add the extracted juice back into the soup pot and return the stock to a simmer.
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the onion, stirring while cooking for 5 minutes. Cut the top half of the asparagus stalks into 1-inch pieces. Add the asparagus pieces, celery and potato to the onion and butter. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cover the saucepan and allow vegetables to cook for 5 minutes. Add the simmering stock and cover saucepan again, cooking another 7 or 8 minutes, until the potato is tender.
Process these cooked vegetables with a hand blender or in a food processor until smooth, then add this puree back into the soup pot, adding the cream. Simmer for 5 minutes, taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary.
Served warm or chilled, garnished with fresh chives.
Vegetable, Fennel Soup
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 carrots, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
- 2 leeks, white parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
- 1 fennel bulb—halved, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 medium tomato, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- One 3-inch square Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped basil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the garlic and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, leeks and fennel and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomato and bay leaves and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and the cheese rind and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.
Discard the cheese rind and bay leaves. Stir in the parsley and basil and season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with the grated cheese and serve.
Italian Vegetable Soup with Orzo and Pesto
- 1 cup fresh baby spinach, packed
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed, plus extra leaves for garnish
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained (fresh may be substituted)
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 leeks, white parts only, chopped (1 bunch of green onions may be substituted)
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
- 1 medium white potato, peeled and cubed
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1/2 cup orzo
- 1 cup green beans, cut into 1/2-inch slices (can also use frozen)
- 1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Puree all pesto ingredients in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In large pot combine leeks, carrots, potato, stock and Italian seasoning. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables are almost tender, 8-10 minutes.
Add orzo and boil uncovered until orzo is almost tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add green beans, cannellini beans and red pepper, cover and simmer 5-7 minutes.
Ladle soup into serving bowls. Divide pesto among the servings and swirl in to blend. Sprinkle with cheese, garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve.