A few years back, in a face-off with a sackful of yellow summer squash and fresh corn from a relative’s garden, I won by tossing them into the soup pot. Summer was officially over (as it is now) but there were still yellow bell peppers and yellow tomatoes in the market, so they went in too. After simmering the vegetables, I pureed them to make the kind of smooth soup that in Italy is called a passato.
The next day, I tasted the soup, then ladled out a generous portion. No high expectations, because it had been too easy, but I was in luck–the soup looked and tasted like a bowlful of sunshine. The recipe ended up in Piatto Unico, my new cookbook, and I’m sharing it here as well.
This is a good soup for a transitional time of year because it’s equally good hot or cold. My favored finisher for warm soup is a dollop of ricotta, which semi-dissolves. Snipped chives and/or fried pancetta or prosciutto bits make a striking and delicious garnish regardless of the soup’s temperature.
Yellow Vegetables, in a Smooth Soup
1 medium yellow onion
1 large stalk celery
1 medium carrot
2 medium yellow summer squash (about 1 pound), ends trimmed
1 medium yellow bell pepper, trimmed and seeded
1 medium potato, peeled
2 garlic cloves
1 large ear fresh corn, husked
Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow tomato, optional
2 quarts water or chicken broth, or a combination
Sea salt or kosher salt
Hot red pepper flakes
Good-quality ricotta cheese (preferably sheep’s milk), for garnish (optional)
Snipped chives and/or fried prosciutto or pancetta bits,* for garnish (optional)
1. Coarsely chop the onion, celery and carrot. Cut the squash, pepper and potato in small chunks. Halve the garlic cloves. With a small knife, scrape the kernels off the corn ear; reserve the cob, breaking it in two, as well as the corn.
2. Combine the onion, celery and carrot with a generous amount of olive oil (about 1/4 cup) in a wide, heavy-bottom saucepan. Over medium heat, cook these odori (“aromatics”), partially covered, until tender but not browned, about 10 minutes.
3. Stir in the squash, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté, stirring often, until the vegetables soften, about 10 minutes longer. Add the corn kernels and cob, potato, tomato (if using), and water. Add 2 teaspoons salt (if using broth, omit salt for the moment) and season lightly with hot red pepper flakes. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, with the lid ajar, until the vegetables are very soft, about 30 minutes. Taste the broth, and add more salt and red pepper if needed.
4. Remove the cobs. Working in batches, fill a countertop blender two-thirds full of soup; holding down the lid with one hand, puree until smooth (alternatively, using an immersion blender, starting on low speed to avoid splashing). Return the pureed soup to the saucepan; reheat, diluting with water as needed for a thick soupy consistency.**
5. Serve the soup warm, garnishing each serving with a dollop of ricotta or chilled, with a sprinkling of chives and/or .
* Cut thinly sliced prosciutto or pancetta in small squares; fry in a little olive oil until crisp.
** In a show-off mood, I’ve been known to strain this soup to achieve a pure, brilliant yellow, but usually I don’t bother.