My Mom’s Soup Files

October 15, 2008

I’ve told you about my food magazine addiction before and I think I even mentioned the cause of it: it’s a trait I inherited from my parents. This feature of the gene pool was on vivid display during my parents’ visit last weekend, while we sat around the living room lazily sipping coffee and each flipping through the magazines that normally litter my coffee table. My mom had somehow missed the January 2008 issue of Gourmet and I was delighted to call her attention to must-read essays and must-make recipes.

We do the same thing back at their house in Minnesota, only the back issues there hark back to the mid-90s. And the stacks of old magazines are supplemented by shelves full of cookbooks, ranging from spiral-bound recipe booklets published by Lutheran churches to slip-covered, glossy-photoed tomes from the world’s hottest chefs.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

But the most inspiring collection of recipes in my parents’ entire house can always be found in the same place: in a sheaf of tattered pages near the stove, tucked between the knife block and a ceramic crock full of wooden spoons. It’s my mom’s version of a to-cook list and while it’s decidedly lower tech than my own Excel spreadsheet and foldered bookmarks list, it has its own advantages: photos, handwritten notes and proximity to the work space.

When we were in Minnesota for a whole 24 hours for a wedding a couple weekends ago, the recipe for this soup was atop my mom’s stack and the soup itself was simmering nearby in her fire engine red Le Creuset pot. I lifted the heavy lid, revealing a rosy broth brimming with hearty ingredients.

After sampling a quick ladleful, I quickly added the recipe to my own to-cook list. Then, this past Sunday, while my parents were en route back to Minnesota, I pulled out my own Le Creuset, flicked on a flame beneath it and let some diced fennel and pancetta sizzle. A couple minutes later, I streamed in a drizzle of sauvignon blanc and some chicken stock and to this plunked in some cannelini beans and shredded leftover roasted chicken. Finally, I swirled in a pinch each of crushed pepper flakes and smoked paprika and a handful of roughly chopped basil. The fennel and basil lend the soup a faint anise flavor that plays nice with the spice and tomatoes. It’s also incredibly satisfying and filling, what with its three forms of protein (beans, pancetta and chicken). It’s another clear winner from my mom’s soup files.

Italian Turkey (or Chicken), Bean & Tomato Soup
Adapted from Bon Appetit

2 cups chopped fresh fennel
4 ounces sliced pancetta, chopped
1 28-ounce can choppedtomatoes
2 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
1 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained
1 1/2 cups roasted chicken or turkey, shredded
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Sauté fennel and pancetta in heavy large pot over high heat until pancetta starts to brown, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Mix in broth, beans, shredded turkey or chicken, smoked paprika and crushed red pepper. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Mix in basil. Season with salt and pepper.


19 Responses to “My Mom’s Soup Files”

  1. Erik Says:

    I thought that was fennel I saw! I have not used fennel and basil together before, even though I have used each of them quite a lot. This is going to be a fun recipe to try!

  2. Betsy Says:

    Looks amazing! I’ve already compiled my grocery list with these ingredients and can’t wait to try it.

  3. jamie Says:

    beautiful soup! looks so colorful!

  4. Dawn in CA Says:

    Mmmmm…one of my favorite things about fall/winter is making (and eating) soup. I recently saw an Ina Garten show (, during which she made the most delicious-looking ribolitta soup. Now I have two new soups on my “to cook” list!

  5. andie Says:


    do you have a good pasta e fagioli recipe? I’m always looking for a great version of that one.

    or beans & greens soup?

  6. andie Says:

    oh, and my mom & i share the similar love of cooking, and both have oodles & oodles of cookbooks and cooking magazines.

    Sometimes, she’ll call me curious as to whether or not I have one of her cookbooks. LOL I love hearing that someone else out there is like us!

  7. dakota Says:

    Your comment about Gourmet reminds me… I’ve been perusing the food magazines with the goal of subscribing to one or two. Looking at the websites, I absolutely loved Gourmet, was not impressed by Bon Appetite, and liked Cooks Illustrated. When I looked at the actual magazines, however, I found the recipes in Bon Appetite to be much more accessible in terms of type and cost of ingredients, and Gourmet to be more advertising than actual recipes and cooking commentary. However, I was looking at the current Gourmet issue – the “restaurant” issue – and I was wondering if that issue is significantly different that others.

    Cooks Illustrated I really like, although it seems that if I just sign up online, I get access to all the online features, plus the magazine features.

    Any comments about which of these magazines you’ve found useful and whether my impressions are accurate or not? Thanks!

  8. molly Says:

    This soup looks delicious. I will definitely write it down and keep it in my stack of recipes to try soon! My mom has a similar stack of recipes she cuts out of the newspaper and magazines. I always love looking through her stash!

  9. canarygirl Says:

    That sounds amazingly hearty and delicious! Loooove me some beans and bacons! 🙂

  10. Robin Says:

    This soup sounds so incredibly perfect. The fennel, the basil… mmmmmmm! Can’t wait to try it.

    I loved hearing about your mom’s to-cook book. Now we know where you got your good kitchen sense from!

  11. diane (mom) Says:

    As always Kristin,your creation looks so much more appealing than mine…do you think it is the photography? Thanks for sharing our find and hope it was as great as the fun we shared. MOM

  12. Irene Says:

    Excellent recipe! Aren’t “mom” recipes the best? 🙂

  13. Kevin Says:

    What a colourful and tasty sounding soup!

  14. Gretchen Says:

    I made this tonight and it is all gone! Everyone loved it including my two kids (age 8 & 10)! The fennel and basil in combination with the heat of the crushed red pepper is amazing! I love you site!

  15. Erik: They’re a great pair. I hope you give it a try!

    Betsy: Thanks! Let us know how it goes …

    jamie: Thank you!

    Dawn in CA: I saw that episode—the soup looked delicious!

    andie: I do not. But the fall/winter is young! And I smuggle my mom’s cookbooks too!

    dakota: I’m a food magazine junkie: I subscribe to all three of those, along with Food & Wine, Cooking Light and Eating Well. I think they each provide something different (I always learn something about cooking from CI and something about nutrition from EW; I enjoy the writing and photography in Gourmet; BA is accessible and I love Molly’s column; F&W has a good travel element and I like they’re “healthy” category of recipes). In short, I’d have a hard time choosing a favorite. It just depends on what aspect is most important to you.

    molly: Maybe that’s what we like about food blogs so much? A chance to peer into other people’s to cook lists.

    canarygirl: Me too!

    Robin: There are a lot of things I (sadly) didn’t get from her, but I’m very happy to have her kitchen sense!

    mom: Thanks!

    Irene: Yes!

    Kevin: Thanks!

    Gretchen: Thank you for reporting back! I’m so happy to hear you liked it!

  16. slong Says:

    Thank you for this recipe. I had literally 20 min to do everything before I had to pick up my beloved from the train. I threw it all together, turned off the heat, and then “reheated”/finished cooking it after we got back home. The leftovers were to die for. I normally hate reheated chicken, but this had none of the harsh poultry flavor! THANK YOU!!!

  17. slong: Wonderful! Thanks for reporting back.

  18. Erin Says:

    Thank you SO much for sharing this recipe! It was VERY VERY well received! My bf complimented me THREE SEPARATE TIMES! Here’s my blog about it!

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