Winter has really set in here in New Jersey. At West Point, this is called the gray season, where the sky, roads, grass, and pretty much everything is a shade of gray. It can be a depressing time. Or, you can curl up next to the fire with the kiddos and read some books, or throw some vinyl on the stereo while a pot of this brightly flavored Italian broccoli soup with lemon and pecorino bubbles away merrily on the stove.
If you take a look through the other recipes on the blog, you’ll see that I have fallen head over heels for the tried and true flavor combination of garlic, lemon, and pecorino. (Simple kale salad, spring snap peas with pecorino) It’s a really versatile holy trinity of flavors that you can apply to a lot of things. Deb over at Smitten Kitchen has done this with a bunch of recipes. I thought taking these flavors and making them into a healthy, stick to your ribs, winter soup was just the thing.
This brightly flavored Italian broccoli soup is a nice departure from the umami bombs that we tend to eat so much of in the winter. I’m all for a bowl of ramen, or a really well made French onion soup, but sometimes I need something acidic to wake yourself up. This recipe is very forgiving. You’ll save yourself a bunch of time if you have a decent immersion blender, but you can blend the soup in a regular blender too.
Also, here’s a tip for this recipe, and anything else with broccoli. While the onions are cooking, peel the long stems of your broccoli. This makes it so you can use the entire broccoli instead of throwing away the stems. After peeling, chop the stems off of the broccoli. Cut the toughest bit off of the very end and discard it. Now cut the broccoli stems into 1/3 inch pieces and add to the onions. The stems need a bit more cooking time than the florets.
As I was tinkering with this recipe, I thought I wanted something with quite a lot of garlic, so don’t shy away from the 6 cloves. It’s not too much, really. Also, as I was grating the cheese for this, I was using my new microplane box grater, which was a christmas present from my brother. I’m not usually one to get excited over a box grater, but this thing is amazingly sharp. I accidentally grated much more cheese than I intended to, but just went ahead and used it all. It’s just the thing to balance out the garlic in the soup.
1 large onion, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice
8 cups water or broth
Salt to taste
1 tsp black pepper
2 lbs broccoli cut into florets, stems cut into 1/3 inch pieces and separated
2 cups grated pecorino romano
Zest of one lemon
Juice of one lemon
Crushed red pepper for serving
Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions, and sauté for 4 minutes or so until they start to become translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Don’t let the garlic burn. Add the chopped broccoli stems and potatoes, and sauté for 3 – 4 minutes.
Add the broth or water and bring to a boil. While you are waiting for the liquid to boil, add salt to taste. Depending on how salty your broth is, this could be none, or up to 3 teaspoons. Go easy on the salt because you will be adding pecorino cheese at the end which also has quite a bit of salt. Add the fresh ground pepper as well. Once the soup boils, turn to a brisk simmer and let cook for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, check to make sure the potatoes and broccoli stems are cooked through. If they are, add the remaining broccoli, and cook for 5 more minutes. Once the broccoli is cooked, take a large ladle, and remove two or three large scoops of chunks of broccoli and potatoes and set aside. Remove the soup from the heat and blend the remainder of it with your immersion blender. If you don’t have an immersion blender, do this in batches in a regular blender, or just forget about it and have chunky soup.
Once the soup is all blended, add the broccoli and potatoes you removed back in, along with the lemon zest, lemon juice and pecorino cheese. Give everything a stir to make sure everything is incorporated. The soup should still be hot enough to melt the cheese, but if it isn’t, turn the heat to low and bring it up to temperature. Taste the soup and adjust the salt and pepper if you need to.
Serve with crushed red pepper and enjoy!0