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Soup Saves the Day and Supper

Hearty Italian soup makes a fabulous, one-pot meal.

A wooden spoon dips into a colorful tureen of vegetable soup, with peppers, mushrooms, bay leaves and oils around it.

Dear Lynne: My creativity has left the building! Every year I say I am going to organize my life so I can holiday shop, do impromptu parties and not go crazy. I am fried. I need an easy main dish I can just reheat - Losing It in Boston

Dear Losing It: Soup is a relief from rich holiday foods, and on a cold night, with everybody crowded around the table, nothing is better. This soup has a fresh, modern feel to it (even though it's an old recipe from an Italian monastery). Serve it with rustic country bread and baked apples for dessert.

Doing a big batch is a good idea because the soup reheats and freezes well, and you can simmer some of it down into a sauce for pasta. One secret of its success is a final sprinkling of fresh rosemary, parsley and crisp pancetta bits.

Hungry Friar's Supper Soup

Ingredients:

1-1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped pancetta (or bacon)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large cauliflower, cored and cut into bite-size pieces
3 Tbsp. minced Italian parsley
3 fresh sage leaves, or 3 dried whole sage leaves
3-inch sprig of fresh rosemary, or 1 tsp. dried rosemary leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 cups drained canned tomatoes
8 cups canned low-sodium broth
2 Tbsp. red-wine vinegar

Ingredients for the garnish:

2 Tbsp. minced Italian parsley
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves, or 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary leaves
1 cup (4 oz.) freshly grated Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano or Asiago cheese

Preparation:

Heat the olive oil and pancetta (or bacon) in a six-quart pot. Cook over medium heat for about eight minutes, or until the pancetta is golden. Using a slotted spoon, remove and reserve the pancetta. Then spoon off all but about two tablespoons of the combined oil and pancetta juices from the pot.

Turn the heat to medium-high and add the onion, cauliflower, parsley and herbs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spatula, eight to 10 minutes, or until the onion is a deep golden brown and the cauliflower has browned. Remove the herbs if they threaten to burn.

Stir in the garlic and tomatoes, and boil for about five minutes.

Add broth and simmer 15 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender-crisp. Sprinkle the soup with the vinegar. When you are serving the soup, sprinkle it with the garnish of parsley, rosemary and reserved pancetta. Serve, passing the cheese so everyone can use it to finish seasoning the soup.

Serves 4 to 6

Lynne Rossetto Kasper is the host of the national radio show The Splendid Table.

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