In Tuscany, the advent of spring doesn’t signal the end of soup season, like it might here in the Northeast. But it does mean the soups that are served take on a different tone. Tender vegetables meet a rich, meaty broth in this light Tuscan-inspired soup—just perfect for a not-too-hot Spring evening.
And while a hallmark of Tuscan cuisine is its rusticity, this soup is all about luxury. In stark contrast to the typical hearty Tuscan soups, which often cleverly repurpose scraps, only the finest ingredients go into a typical “garmugia”—a pairing of pricey meats and the season’s freshest vegetables.
In garmugia, meat is a seasoning, not the main event. To that end, Milk Street omits the veal, as the combination of beef broth and pancetta (plus a simmered rind of Parmesan) gives the soup a wonderfully savory depth that enhances the vegetables without competing with them.
For their clean vegetal flavors and year-round availability, this soup opts for scallions, asparagus, artichoke hearts and frozen peas. By cooking the vegetables in sequence—starting with the sturdiest, ending with the most delicate—each ingredient retains its character, ensuring that they’re not overcooked. The artichoke hearts are simmered first, then the asparagus, followed by the peas, all topped with a finishing sprinkle of scallion greens for a burst of zingy freshness.
“Each bite of the finished soup is a spoonful of spring in a bowl, no matter the season.”
Milk Street instructs you to simmer the optional Parmesan rind into the mix to boost the umami notes. Canned artichoke hearts do well here, but frozen artichokes also work—just defrost and pat dry before use (you’ll need about 2 cups). To serve on the side, make savory Parmesan toasts that are perfect for dipping into the broth.
Don’t use ultra-slender asparagus, which will end up overcooked. Look for spears about the size of a pencil. To retain the bright-green color of the peas, don’t allow the soup to boil after the peas are stirred in.
Tuscan Spring Soup
- 4 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more to serve
- 3-4 oz. pancetta, chopped
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced, whites and greens reserved separately
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 1½ qts. low-sodium beef broth
- 1 chunk Parmesan rind (optional), plus ½ oz. Parmesan cheese, finely grated (¼ cup)
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
- 8 oz. crusty white bread, sliced ½ inch thick
- 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and quartered
- 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths on the diagonal
- ½ cup frozen peas, thawed
- Heat the broiler with a rack about 6 inches from the element. In a large saucepan over medium, combine 1 tablespoon of oil and the pancetta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta has rendered its fat and begins to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the scallion whites and thyme. Cook until the scallions are lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Add the broth, the Parmesan rind (if using) and ½ teaspoon pepper, then bring to a boil over medium-high.
- Meanwhile, brush both sides of the bread slices with the remaining 3 tablespoons oil, then place in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with the grated Parmesan, then broil until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.
- When the soup reaches a boil, add the artichokes, reduce to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
- Add the asparagus and cook, stirring occasionally, until the asparagus is just tender, 2 to 4 minutes.
- Stir in the peas, reduce to medium-low and cook, stirring, until the peas are heated through, about 3 minutes; do not allow the soup to boil.
- Off heat, remove and discard the thyme and Parmesan rind (if used). Stir in the scallion greens, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, drizzle with additional oil and serve with the Parmesan toasts.
Recipe by Shaula Clark for Milk Street
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