04 October 2012

AUNTIE PASTA: Milan's Great Vegetable Soup

SARONNO, Italy – Milanese style vegetable soup doesn’t have anything to do with fashion, it has to do with the way the cuisines in Italy developed. In this case it’s the addition of rice instead of pasta to a basic vegetable soup that gives it its Milanese twist.
 Piazza Duomo, Milan, Italy
I don’t know if this is true in other countries, but here in Italy each region took what it had available and created its own unique cuisine. That’s the reason why in the past you would only find basil pesto in the sunny region of Liguria and risotto in Milan. Of course that has all changed now, although each region does tend to favor its own cuisine.   

This recipe, which I found on Barilla pasta web site, reminds me a little bit of a diet soup recipe that was circulating a few back that consisted primarily of cabbage and tomatoes, but I think this version tastes a whole lot better. Along with the recipe there were some common sense tips on soup making.
Milan's Famous Peck's Food Emporium - A Foodie's Paradise
The first tip was that you need to take the cooking times of the various vegetables into consideration, going from the hardest to the softest. This is a good tip because if you put all of the vegetables in at the same time, some of them, like the potatoes, are going to be too soft.

The second tip was to add salt only at the end because as your soup cooks, it reduces in volume and when it has finished cooking it can be too salty. So hold off on the salt until your soup has cooked completely. They also suggest using semi-fine rice, Vialone Nano, Lido, or Padano. I know that in a lot of places there isn’t a wide variety of rice to choose from, or the rice that is available may not be Italian rice, so it’s doubly important to pay attention to cooking times on the rice package so your rice doesn’t over cook.
 Great Soup Veggies
And one other thing I’d like to add, simply because it came up this week in a conversation with a friend of mine who doesn’t cook. When you refrigerate this soup, or any homemade soup you are going to find a layer of congealed fat on the top of the soup when the soup is cold. It’s normal. It’s actually good because you know that the soup has been made with real meat. You can skim it off if it seems excessive, but be sure to leave some of it because that is what gives your soup a good flavor. 

Servings 4
3 ½ oz beans
1 ¾ oz celery, white 
4 oz Rice
1 ¾ oz tomatoes 
7 oz potatoes 
3 ½ oz savoy cabbage
2 oz white onion
1 ¾ oz carrot
1 oz leek
3 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil  
⅛ oz parsley
3 basil leaves
⅛ oz garlic
⅛ oz sage
3 ½ oz Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (freshly grated)  
8 cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
1 ¾ oz pancetta (italian bacon), or lard 

Preparation Time: 35 minutes preparation + 1 hour and 45 minutes cooking 

Step 1
Chop the pancetta, brown it, and then remove the grease from it that has formed during browning. Add the onion finely chopped, and the sage.

Step 2
Then add the carrots, celery, and leeks, all diced. Leave to stew and then add the diced potatoes, and only at the end the tomato cut into regular pieces.

Step 3
Add the beans, previously blanched, and mix everything together and leave to gain flavor, seasoning with the salt and pepper.

Step 4
Pour in the hot stock and bring to the boil. Leave boiling for around 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Step 5
During the cooking, add the cabbage cut into little pieces and finish off the cooking. Ensure that the soup has not become too dry and add the rice, being careful to stir every once in a while.

Step 6
Remove from the heat and flavor with Grana cheese. Sprinkle with finely chopped parsley and torn basil leaves.



  1. Great article!

    Check out WWW.CHEFSILVA.COM they have a perfect alternative to buying fresh herbs that many times go to waste in your refrigerator!

  2. Looks delicious and healthy too. I bet that would be great on a cold winter night in Milan. I've always wondered about the congealed fat. Yes, if you take away too much, it'll take away too much flavor.

    Thanks for sharing,