Cristina Ferrare
I can't think of a more perfect meal than a comforting, big bowl of soup. I didn't always feel that way. When I was a kid and it was "soup night," I wasn't a happy camper. I wanted to eat pasta every single night, period. 

I do remember, however, when I would come home from school and it was freezing outside (I grew up in Cleveland, so I'm not kidding when I say it was freezing). The minute I walked in the door, the whole house smelled so inviting. The aroma of the fresh vegetables and chicken simmering in a pot put me at ease immediately. It was a warm, comforting feeling that made me happy to be home.

The moment I tasted the perfectly seasoned broth and the thin egg noodles mixed in with the tender chicken and vegetables (okay, so I pushed the veggies to one side), I forgot about being annoyed that I wasn't eating pasta. And I loved, loved, loved the soup. I always had seconds.    My mother and grandmother would make the tastiest, most satisfying soups ever! Besides the chicken soup with noodles, some of my favorites were hearty minestrone, chicken soup with baby pastina and chicken meatballs and pasta with beans. My favorite above all others was Tuscan bread soup! 

There was one soup in particular that I took the liberty to revamp. I disliked it so much that I had a major standoff with my parents that went on until I finally gave in...I could see the "you're grounded" coming out of their mouths at any moment. It was the classic Italian wedding soup. I hated those tiny little meatballs floating around the soup with my archenemy—spinach! (What child loved spinach in the '50s?) Years later, I decided to make this soup with a few changes, especially since I came to love spinach. And I'm finally at peace with the meatballs floating around, because I have turned them into the most delicious, succulent taste thrills!

I love starting a meal with a delicious bowl of soup. It's extremely satisfying, and I like the way it takes the edge off your hunger and keeps you from overeating. Many nights I make soup as the main meal and accompany it with a great salad. My favorites are what I call "balanced meals in a bowl," where you get your servings of vegetables, meat for protein and carbs. Minestrone is a great example of this kind of soup.

When I make soup, I make double portions and freeze them. That way I always have something ready to enjoy at any time or in an emergency when I haven't had time to prepare anything in advance. I always make sure to have homemade chicken stock available at all times too. I use it in soup, sauces, stews, risotto, roasted veggies, turkey, stuffing and many more recipes that require chicken stock. I purchase roasted chickens from my market every time I go so I can make a hearty and rich chicken stock. I find that using roasted chicken bones gives the stock a richer, fuller flavor. Of course, buying the chickens already roasted saves you so much time and is economical because you can take one chicken and make two, maybe three, meals from it.

Tip: Pour any leftover stock in an ice cube tray and freeze it. Whenever you need chicken stock, just pull out as many cubes as you need for whatever dish you're preparing. 

Sending "Big Bowls of Love,"

Get Cristina's recipe for vegetable minestrone soup


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