We have over a hundred olive trees on our property in Umbria, and one of our greatest joys is spending three long days every fall harvesting the olives and then taking them to the mill to be turned into our own extra virgin olive oil. Our olive harvest 2018 will begin tomorrow, so to celebrate I made a big pot of this hearty vegetable soup for us to enjoy on our lunch break as we harvest.
Though the oil is delicious simply drizzled over slices of grilled bread, I also use the pungent flavored oil in a number of dishes such as this traditional soup. Newly pressed extra virgin olive oil is the star in this soup as you’ll see in the instructions, but since many folks may not have access to newly pressed olive oil, simply buy the best quality bottle of extra virgin olive oil you can for the best results. (See Notes Below!)
I like to grill a slice of crusty, country Italian bread, rub it with garlic and drizzle it with oil and place it in the bottom of the soup bowl, and then spoon the soup on top of it. By the time you have eaten down to the bottom of the bowl, the bread has deliciously softened with all the flavors found in the soup.
I wanted my vegetables chunky for this soup, so I cut them a little larger than I normally would for soup. This flavor of this soup is even better the second day, but you may need to add extra liquid as it will thicken sitting in the refrigerator. This soup doesn’t need anything fancy to garnish it apart from a good drizzle of the extra virgin olive oil, but feel free to add a sprinkling of cracked black pepper or grated cheese if you prefer.
To make this soup vegetarian, simply leave out the chopped pancetta. This soup, like most Italian soups, is best served very warm but not piping hot. Too hot and you lose the complexity of the flavors.
Choosing Extra Virgin Olive Oil
First smell the oil to judge the aroma. It should be a clean olive smell with no trace of mustiness. Take a spoonful in your mouth, and suck in a little air as you would taste wine. You should taste a fresh olive taste, with no metallic aftertaste, which could indicate your oil is rancid. Words that should come to mind would be earthy, zesty, nutty, grassy or buttery. The oil should lightly coat your palate, not lie heavy like a coat of paint.
Color isn’t the great indicator of the quality of olive oil as we have come to believe, as many factors affect the color, including the type of olive used, whether leaves were mixed in with the pressing, and even whether additives were added to “fake” the color. However, a good quality, recently pressed, organic extra virgin olive oil should be green in color.
Deborah Mele 2018
Olive Harvest Soup ~ Zuppa Frantoiana
- 6 Tablespoons Olive Oil , Divided
- 3 Carrots Cut Into 1/2 Inch Pieces
- 1 Medium Onion, Peeled And Cut Into 1/2 To 1 Inch Pieces
- 3 Celery Sticks Cut Into 1/2 To 1 Inch Pieces
- 1/2 Cup Pancetta Or Bacon, Finely Chopped
- 3 Garlic Cloves, Peeled And Minced
- 4 To 6 Cups Vegetable Or Chicken Broth
- 6 Cabbage Leaves, Chopped
- 1 Cup Pumpkin Or Squash, Cut Into 1/2 To 1 Inch Pieces
- 2 (14 Ounce) Can Borlotti Beans
- 1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Parsley
- Sea Salt And Pepper To Taste
- 6 Slices Of Grilled Country Bread Rubbed With Garlic (Optional)
- A Drizzle of Additional Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- A Dollop Of Homemade Pesto
- In a heavy saucepan, heat the three tablespoons of olive oil, and then sauté the onion, celery, pancetta, and carrots until the vegetables have softened and the pancetta is lightly browned, about 5 to 6 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook an additional minute or two until fragrant.
- Add 4 cups of broth, the chopped cabbage, pumpkin, and parsley, and cook over low heat for about 35 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Take 1/3 of the beans and puree them with three tablespoons of the olive oil and stir this into the soup.
- Add the remaining whole beans and continue to cook over low heat for an additional 15 minutes, adding additional broth if the soup seems too thick.
- Drizzle a little olive oil over each bread slice and then place it on the bottom of each bowl.
- Spoon the soup on top of the bread, and the drizzle each bowl with additional olive oil.
- Serve warm.