Italian Peasant Soup

Italian Peasant Soup

Oh baby, it’s cold outside…and it’s snuggling weather! Or maybe it’s not and you just want something to warm your soul.

This Italian peasant soup is the best one-pot meal ever to ladle up in your big Buddha bowl. It’s based on an old Italian recipe with a contemporary twist.

Similar to braising but a little different, this hearty soup falls into the sub-category stewing. Stewing is when all the pieces of meat are cut uniformly and seared at lower heat, before being submerged in liquid and simmered until tender.

This hearty soup is jam packed with all the superfoods your body wants, and you only need one pot to enjoy it…how simply awesome is that!?

It is kind of a soup or stew throw down…the time to clean out your pantry and freezer. There are no rules here and no worries. Think of it as a creation of healing and well being — zen-like with oneself.

Now all you vegans and vegetarians! You know what you need to substitute here…veg stock and flavored tofu will give you a great twist on this soup.

Enjoy and welcome all that goodness into your body. It’s just a big bowl of love, so share that love now!

Serves 6-8

[ingredients title=”equipment”]

  • Large stock pot
  • Chef knife
  • Can opener
  • Handheld strainer or colander
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Slotted large spoon or wire spider (Asian hand held wired strainer)
  • Rubber spatula
  • Ladle


[ingredients title=”Ingredients”]

  • 1/2 lb. pancetta, or thick bacon, diced small *
  • 1/2 C extra virgin olive oil (if needed)
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, cleaned of dirt and sliced in thin half moons
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
  • 1 large stalk of celery, diced small
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 fennel bulb, cord and sliced thin
  • 1 t + crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 smashed anchovy fillets, (the secret ingredient) *
  • 1 C + white wine
  • 1 gallon chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 2 sprigs oregano
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 lb. pulled chicken meat, diced medium *
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained (15 oz.)
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans, drained (15 oz.)
  • 1 C frozen corn
  • 1 large can, diced Italian tomatoes (28 oz.)
  • 1 package gnocchi *
  • 1 C frozen green peas
  • 1 head (10-12 oz.) fresh spinach, kale, or Swiss chard, stems removed, blanched, and chopped *
  • 1/4 C fresh Italian parsley and basil, chopped
  • 1 C Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated


Chef Gerrie’s Notes:

* Pancetta is the Italian version of bacon, made by seasoning a pork belly with salt and lots of pepper, curling it into a tight roll, and wrapping it in a casing to hold its shape. Then it is cured, but not smoked. 

* Pulled chicken comes from cooked skinless and de-boned (taken off the bone) chicken.  Whether it be poached or roasted, it should not have any strong flavoring like smoke or barbecue.

You can buy fresh, cooked chicken meat packaged at your local specialty grocery store where they sell whole roasted chickens. Or you could buy one and do it yourself. Costco sells their cooked pulled chicken in Cryovac, or air tight packages of 2 pounds.

* Anchovies are naturally salty, very nutritious (high in protein, healthy omega 3 fats, calcium, iron, and zinc), and adds a umami flavor (a distinct, pleasant, savory taste)! A secret ingredient chefs have used for years to create that umami satisfaction. A Caesar salad dressing would NOT taste the same if the anchovies were substituted with kosher salt.

Fun fact…you may be surprised to know that soy sauce is made from fermented fish with salt.

* Gnocchi is a soft-dough dumpling made from semolina or wheat flour, egg, potato or ricotta cheese, pureed vegetables (spinach, carrot, etc.), and herbs. It is cooked in broth and finished with a sauce. Gnocchi are a replacement for pasta, but you can find it in the freezer section or under modified atmospheric packaging, which has a shelf life of approximately 2 months.

* Blanched greens: If you’ve never blanched before, here you go…First bring water to a boil and generously salt before adding your de-stemmed greens. Let them cook for about 5 minutes, or until almost soft, before immediately transferring to an ice water bath in a separate bowl. The ice water will stop the greens from cooking further.

[directions title=”Directions”]

1 Render pancetta in large stock pot by first heating the pot to medium-high heat, then adding oil to render the pancetta until crisp, but not burnt. Drain and reserve pancetta.
2 Sauté leeks and shallots in seasoned oil until translucent. Then add the carrot, celery, garlic, fennel, crushed red pepper, anchovies, and sauté until veggies are just tender.
3 Deglaze the pot by increasing the heat to medium-high and adding white wine. Scrape and stir the browned bits over moderate-high heat to combine the pot residue into the liquid. Reduce the liquid by half.This deglazing process cooks off the alcohol to reveal pure flavors from the white wine.
4 Add stock, oregano and thyme (stems can be removed later), chicken, beans, corn, and tomatoes and bring to a strong simmer. Then reduce the heat and cook for about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning according to preference.

Sautéed leeks, shallots, carrot, celery, garlic, fennel, crushed red pepper flakes, anchovies, and herbs.

5 Remove stems from the oregano and thyme using your slotted spoon or wire spider.
6 Add gnocchi, peas, and blanched spinach. Cook for 5-8 minutes, or until gnocchi is tender and hot. Add parsley and basil and rendered pancetta.

A big Buddha bowl of Italian Peasant Soup…mmmmm!

7 Ladle up in your big Buddha bowl and garnish with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Thing about serving with crusty Italian bread and a nice Italian Chianti. Whoa baby, you may just get lucky tonight!

Finished Italian peasant soup garnished with Parmesan cheese.

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