Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Best Soup Ever

I love the fall.

Simply because when the weather turns chilly it’s time to make soup.

You thought my adoration of autumn was based on football starting, didn’t you?

Ha ha.

Truth be told I would rather watch hours of static on the TV than subject myself to football. But, go Eagles! Or, I guess I should say, “Go Redskins,” since that’s the team Mark digs, which I still don’t understand considering he is a lifelong South Jersey resident.

Anyhoo, one chilly night this week, when the husband was working crazy late (It’s the life of a newspaper man), I whipped up my famous Tortellini and Escarole Soup.

It is fabulous. I highly recommend it, which is why I’m sharing it with you.

Since Mark was doing his daily grind at the office, I took the photo this go-around.

Mark said it was a keeper. Yay!

As a side note, my dad has run a photo lab for like my entire life and yet, I take the worst pictures ever. But I keep trying. As I tell my piano students when they miss a note, “You gotta keep trying.”

Fortunately, my husband is a mac daddy photog. Unfortunately, he works approximately 70 hours a week, so sometimes a blogging gal has to take the pics herself.

If you've never tasted escarole or pancetta (key ingredients of said soup), you really should give them a whirl. Keep an open mind when cooking. That’s my rule of thumb.

Pancetta is similar to bacon, but it isn't smoked. You could substitute bacon, but I think the pancetta has a more subtle flavor. If pancetta isn't carried in your local grocery and you have to resort to buying it at a fancy pants market or online, you can freeze what you don't use. Again, just like bacon. In my parts of the world, Bagliani's on 12th Street in Hammonton carries awesome pancetta.

Make sure you wash your escarole really well. When you get a head of escarole, peel off the outer layer, chop off the core and separate the leaves into a big bowl or clean sink filled with water. Swish the water around and let the leaves chill out. Dump the water and repeat. I know – it’s a process. But seriously, do you want dirt in your food? I don’t think so.

I cut the escarole into strips for the soup. When you put the leaves in the pot, it appears that you have enough escarole for a small army, but it wilts down. Give it time.

Tortellini and Escarole Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup pancetta, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 (15-ounce) can of cannelloni beans, rinsed and drained (I like Goya)
1 head of escarole, washed well and shredded.
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I like Swanson)
3 cups water
½ lb. cheese tortellini
Salt and pepper to taste

In a dutch oven or soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and brown for a few minutes. Add onion carrots and garlic. Cook for a few more minutes until fragrant. Add beans, escarole, broth and water. Season with salt and pepper. Increase heat so that mixture comes to a boil. Then, reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Add tortellini and cook until heated through.

Serve with parmesan cheese and Italian bread.

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