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, one of my cookbooks, 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.
- 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)
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.
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.
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.