Lentil Soup with Arborio Rice
52 weeks in Italy. Week Due (two)
In week one, we prepared Homemade Beef Broth and now we’re going to use that broth to make our first Italian soup, Lentil with Arborio Rice. Again, the text we are using is the Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan. You can pick this up at any bookstore or on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and even find copies at Half Priced Books. On Amazon is has 4 ½ stars out of five based on 490 reviews.
Part of the reason we do Culinary Sojourns is to expand our knowledge of different regional and cultural cuisine. This sampling we do allows us to cook with different ingredients, learn new techniques, and experiment with different flavors. Since our focus is authentic Italian cuisine we will stay true to the recipe as much as possible.
The recipe for Lentil Soup with Arborio Rice is found starting on page 99, of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I guess what struck me first after reading over the ingredient list is that the addition of carrots, onion and celery was measured in tablespoons and not in whole ingredients. Usually you see recipes calling for a stalk of celery or a small carrot or medium onion, so I knew right away I was going to be tempted to add far more that what the recipe called for. I did resist that temptation and added the correct amount. We ended up making a triple batch of this recipe so our overall proportion of ingredients were larger by scaling up and using up some of the whole ingredients.
But, I must say… after making this soup, I was immediately impressed with the quality of this cookbook because we feel Marcella takes you to school building levels of flavor. That was immediately evident and far different to how I’ve approached soup making in the past. When you look at a given recipe and set of instructions, it’s sometimes hard to envision how each step will look like in reality. It’s weird, but it is almost like Marcella Hazan is standing next to you guiding you along by the way as she proceeds through the recipe.
The recipe itself is easy to understand and more importantly, if you are purchasing the recommended ingredients I’ll guarantee you, you’ll be turning out excellent food. I think this journey through Italy could be revolutionary to me personally and I’m sure to a lot of others who’ll be joining us for this journey. I don’t think I’m over exaggerating here… I think it could have that influence.
Technique and Recipe Notes
One consideration you need to account for is the cost of the prosciutto or pancetta which is a primary flavor component of this soup. If we weren’t cooking authentic Italian, I’d probably use a better quality bacon as a substitute, but since we are staying true to our ingredients and are aiming at that authentic Italian flavor, we needed to shop around in order to avoid breaking the bank for this ingredient.
The priciest we found was at a higher end supermarket which imports a lot of ingredients that normally wouldn’t find at your average supermarket. The cost per pound for prosciutto was $24.99. At your typical supermarket, you can purchase a three ounce pack for $5.99. But if you need three packs for your recipe, you can see the cost adds up quick especially knowing that Parmesan Reggiano is also on your ingredient list. We ended up finding a pretty good deal at our local club store. They had a 12 ounce pack of prosciutto for a cost of $11.95. We would have paid double that at the local supermarket, so it pays to shop around. We don’t want to discourage you to make this recipe especially if you are on a tight budget.
But, if at all possible, we recommend going with the stated ingredients. The soup itself was extremely flavorful. The Reggiano really brings it all together as one of your final touches. As I posted on Facebook, the only way to really have to opportunity to enjoy a soup of this quality is to either go to a fine Italian restaurant or to make it yourself. But worthy to note, just be sure to have extra beef broth available while the rice is cooking because that starch will thicken up your soup considerably. If you use a lot of water to thin it down you’ll dilute the flavors depending on how much you add. So keep that in mind.
I think you’re going to enjoy this one. Our plan over the next three Italian Culinary Sojourns is to feature three more Italian soups so we can use up all the beef broth we prepared in week number one. In our next Culinary Sojourns through Italy we are going to be preparing Potato and Green Pea Soup called, Patate e zuppa di piselli verde. We’ll be looking forward to making that one.
As always, we’ll post progress photos on Facebook. So, you’ll want to keep checking back for that.
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