Bowls of nourishing soups and stews are a perfect timeout during the busy (and indulgent) holiday season. Brimming with seasonal vegetables and hearty grains, they’re a great way to put some of that turkey stock to use and cook any wayward vegetables that escaped the turkey dinner.
This soup takes inspiration from minestrone, with a tomato-based stock that includes a wedge of cheese. Cheese? Yes, a chunk of Italian cheese is a great trick for soup stocks and a good use of the ends of your hunk of parmesan or Pecorino Romano that’s buried in the fridge. Simply add it to the stock while it simmers, and the cheese will break down and infuse its essence into the broth, slightly thickening the soup and adding essential cheesy-umami flavor.
My take on this soup adds sweet and nutty butternut squash, which balances the tomato-acidity of the broth; hearty farro gives a vegetarian infusion of protein and heft, and nutrient-rich kale dutifully wilts and softens in the hot broth. All told, this soup is a perfect timeout that allows you to pace yourself in the days ahead, leading up to the next holiday bash.
** ** **
Farro, Kale and Butternut Squash Soup
Active time: 45 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup semi-pearled farro or barley
6 cups chicken stock, plus additional stock as necessary
2 cups (1/2-inch-cubed) butternut squash
1 (15-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1 (2-inch) chunk of rind of parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 to 3 cups coarsely chopped green kale leaves
Finely grated parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese for garnish
Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium. Add the onion and saute until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the farro and stir to coat.
Add the chicken stock, squash, tomatoes, cheese chunk, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil, breaking up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat, partially cover the pot, and simmer until the squash is tender and farro is cooked, about 30 minutes. (Add more stock to desired consistency if soup is too thick.) Add the salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.
Stir in the kale leaves and simmer until the kale brightens in color and wilts, about 2 minutes. Discard cheese rind and the bay leaf. Ladle the soup into bowls and pass the grated cheese for sprinkling over the soup.