My favourite vegetable, made into my new favourite soup. A simple recipe for summer days, and easy to transform into a vegan alternative. Excellent served with fresh sourdough!
Eating in season is something I am trying to be better at. At home in California, this is easy as there is always such a variety available to us no matter what season we are in. Courgette, or zucchini, are not in season until June – the true summer vegetable, they are then at peak from June to October – but we were delivered some in our vegetable box this past week, and had some lingering around the fridge.
When picking courgette, come June, the smaller, younger ones have more flavour. You want a firm, solid, blemish-less courgette as the optimum choice, but I am always a sucker for the ugly veg that I worry will be left behind. Don’t waste any of the vegetable, and cut close to the funny shaped stem, leaving the top of your courgette with a nearly star shaped outer edge. I am notorious for eating courgette with anything; “zucchini queen” was my nickname for a period of time, when I made courgette with all of my dinners.
“What can I do with all of this zucchini?” I asked myself, thinking about the 5 long green vegetables in the crisper drawer. I had already sautéed some for a previous meal and wanted something new. Part of our food delivery this quarantine involved a nearby Sicilian wholesaler, who distributed fresh Pecorino and soft Ricotta salata (as well as 1 kg of restaurant quality pasta noodles and Nero d’Avola wine) around the postcode to those who ordered. We thus had as a compliment to lots of courgette, lots of cheese.
This recipe does require the rind of the parmesan cheese, however the rind of pecorino will work just fine. It will infuse a cheesy delicious flavour through your soup.
I searched online for recipes, and as I usually do, put a few recipes together and put my own twist on it. This recipe mainly does come from here, though. Thus, the courgette parmigiano (and pecorino and ricotta salata and crème fraîche and so on) soup was born.
To make the soup vegan, just omit the cheese (or use a plant based alternative!) and try the crème fraîche I recommend below.
As with all good soups, I began by softening an onion and a couple of garlic cloves in a large saucepan over medium heat with a bit of olive oil. Once softened, I added in my chopped courgette. “Chopped” for me is cut into slices, then the slices cut into quarters. It is going to get blended up, so you want it to be easy to blend but not too small. These cooked in the onion and garlic until they were soft, about 7 minutes over medium-high heat.
Once softened, it’s time to add in the best bits of this recipe. Pour vegetable stock over the vegetables, 650mL or about 2.5 cups worth. Then, drop in your parmesan, or pecorino, rind. Bring it to a simmer. Let all of this cook for about 15 minutes.
Remove the rind after this step, and before discarding think about the wonderful things you can do with it. Once it is cooked, the rind will be ooey gooey. This recipe calls for removing the rind from the soup, however you can save it and use it to make a delicious pesto right then and there. You could also blend it into the soup, if you wanted. I am sadly lacking basil leaves right now (SOS would do anything for a basil plant), so I couldn’t try this, but I am saving my latest cheese rinds to give it a go. Just as you would in a genovese pesto, blend the basil leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, cooked gooey cheese rind, and garlic. A recipe in a recipe, you lucky ducks !
Time to get out your trusty blender. If you read my introduction post, you will know that I love this blender. Any similar one will work, but an immersion blender has been an incredible addition to my kitchen life. CAREFULLY, as the soup is hot, blend it all together until smooth. If you haven’t got an immersion blender, a blender or food processor of any type will work fine.
Bring the soup back to a simmer once blended. Stir in the grated cheese of your choice (parmesan or pecorino, ricotta salata, whatever hard Italian cheese you have at hand, or none at all if you are going for a vegan alternative to this recipe). Then, spoon in about 2 Tablespoons of crème fraîche. There are some amazing vegan alternatives readily available out there, and actually I prefer this one to regular crème fraîche. Add some lemon zest, salt, and pepper and seasonings of your choice (I leave this vague to encourage you to be creative in the kitchen as well!). I used some dried basil and oregano. Stir this delicious mix all together.
Now, to serve it and have it look professional is quite easy. Ladle the soup into a bowl. Place a dollop of crème fraîche in the center, and a pinch of the parmesan on top of that. I freshly grind black pepper, so that it is coarser, and sprinkle that in a circle around the inside of the bowl. I began in a straight line but decided more pepper was better. The same with flaky sea salt. And finally, to get the pretty olive oil swirls, take a teaspoon and carefully fill it with oil. Gently tilt it and make a circle with the parmesan as the centre point. Repeat the circular shape until all of the oil is off of the spoon. Don’t try to do this straight from your olive oil bottle, please. The mouth is far too wide and you will end up with a glob of oil. Trust me, from experience. Serve it with fresh pain de campagne. Or any bread will do…
Courgette Parmigiano Soup
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil, split (1Tbsp for cooking onion, 1 for serving)
about 3 medium courgettes, chopped
650 mL (2.5 cups) vegetable stock
Parmigiano or Pecorino Reggiano rind
1 lemon zested
100 g grated Parmigiano Reggiano, or any hard Italian cheese, split (90g for soup, 10g for serving)
4 Tbsp crème fraîche
Salt and pepper
1. Soften onion and garlic in olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add chopped courgette, and cook until soft. About 7-10 minutes.
3. Add vegetable stock and parmigiano rind. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
4. Remove rind, discard (or use for pesto), and blend the vegetables together with immersion blender or in food processor.
5. Bring back to a simmer, and add crème fraîche, grated cheese, lemon zest, and salt, pepper, and other seasonings.
6. Serve in bowls with olive oil, crème fraîche, salt and pepper over top.
7. Enjoy with fresh bread!
Soon, I will share the recipe for delicious homemade bread. For now, I will leave it to you to try the soup. As the days get longer and warmer, summer recipes like this will keep you full and happy, I promise!
Let me know what you think, and what other summer soups you love.