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The Food Issue

Chefs’ winter warmers

6 delicious soups the pros make at home.

Soups you can make at home include shrimp soup, sichuan beef noodle, ash-e Mast, pasta e fagioli, fava bean soup with broccoli rabe, and rustic country borscht.

In addition, check out six spots where soup-making is taken seriously.

Photo by Kristin Teig / Styling Catrine Kelty


NIVIA PINA says of her native Puerto Rico: “On the island, when it’s raining, we usually have soup.” One of the chef’s favorites is a tomato-based soup with seafood. Nivia and her husband, Hector, own Boston’s Vejigantes, featuring Puerto Rican cuisine, and Roxbury’s Merengue, a Dominican restaurant. “Caribbean food is not spicy hot,” she says. “It just has lots of flavoring.”


Serves 6 to 8

¼ cup olive oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 medium green bell pepper, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 6-ounce can tomato paste

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon salt

4 packets Goya Sazon with coriander and annatto

½ cup white vinegar

6 ounces Spanish fideo, vermicelli, or angel-hair pasta, broken into short pieces

24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined

In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Add bell peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are very tender. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more. Add tomato paste and stir to coat vegetables. Stir in tomatoes, black pepper, oregano, salt, and Goya Sazon.

Add 8 cups of water, increase heat to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Add the vinegar and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adjusting as needed.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of boiling water, cook the pasta for 3 to 6 minutes or until just tender. Drain in a colander. Rinse briefly.


Add the shrimp to the soup and cook for 3 minutes or until cooked through. Stir the pasta into the soup and heat until hot.

Photo by Kristin Teig / Styling Catrine Kelty


AZITA BINA-SEIBEL says this thick spinach-flecked Persian soup contains all kinds of good things, including plentiful herbs, chickpeas, rice, and bulgur. “With meat in it, it’s a whole meal,” notes the chef and co-owner of Beacon Hill’s Lala Rokh. Stirring in yogurt at the end adds a tangy creaminess.

Serves 8

½ cup dried chickpeas (or 1½ cups canned chickpeas, rinsed)

¼ cup canola oil

1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced

4 bone-in chicken thighs (skin discarded)

Salt and pepper

½ cup white basmati rice, rinsed

1/3 cup bulgur

4 cups (about 4 ounces) packed chopped fresh spinach

2 cups packed chopped fresh parsley

1 cup packed chopped fresh cilantro

1/3 cup chopped fresh tarragon leaves

3 scallions, chopped

1 cup plain yogurt

Place the dried chickpeas in a bowl with hot water to cover by at least 2 inches. Soak for a few hours or overnight. (If using canned chickpeas, omit this step.)

In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the chicken and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add 14 cups of water, cover the pot, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat a bit and simmer, covered, for 50 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked.


Add the soaked chickpeas (if using dried) and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the rice and bulgur, and cook, covered, for 15 minutes or until the grains are cooked. (If using canned chickpeas, add them to the pot now.) Remove the chicken bones and any cartilage that has separated from the bones.

Stir in the spinach, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, and scallions. Cook, uncovered, at a gentle simmer for 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adjusting as needed. Just before serving, stir in the yogurt. (Or pass the yogurt separately at the table.)

Photo by Kristin Teig / Styling Catrine Kelty


DELIO SUSI JR., chef-owner of Amelia’s Trattoria in Cambridge, follows his late mother’s recipe for the classic Italian pasta and bean soup. He starts with a chunk of prosciutto rind — “That’s what makes it,” he says — and purees the vegetables and stock (and some of the beans), which gives the soup a rusty-orange color and creamy texture.

Serves 6 to 8

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 3-inch piece prosciutto rind (or 1 thin slice pancetta)

2 medium onions, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

6 garlic cloves, chopped

2 sprigs thyme

1 sprig rosemary

1 bay leaf

1 cup (homemade or store-bought) marinara sauce

3½ cups (or 2 15-ounce cans) cooked borlotti, cranberry, or red kidney beans

Salt and pepper

4 cups chicken stock

2 cups ditalini pasta

¼ cup each chopped fresh Italian parsley, for garnish, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for passing


In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the prosciutto rind (or pancetta) and brown both sides, about 3 to 5 minutes or until crisp. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. In a piece of cheesecloth or a bouquet garni bag, wrap up the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf; add to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are softened.

Stir in the marinara sauce and 1½ cups of beans. Season with salt and a liberal grinding of pepper. Pour in the chicken stock and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to moderate and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat. Discard the bouquet garni bag and prosciutto rind (or pancetta). Let the soup cool for about 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. (Or puree the soup, in batches, in a blender or food processor and return the soup to the pot.)

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan of boiling water, cook the pasta for 6 to 8 minutes or until just firm-tender. Don’t overcook. Drain in a colander.

Heat the soup over medium heat. When hot, add the remaining 2 cups of beans and the cooked pasta. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. If the soup is too thick, add a little water to thin. Taste for seasoning, adjusting as needed. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with parsley. Pass the cheese separately.


Photo by Kristin Teig / Styling Catrine Kelty


WHEN EVAN MALLETT, chef-owner of Black Trumpet in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, makes this Ukrainian-style borscht at home, he leaves it chunky; at the restaurant, everything but the meat is pureed to an “eye-popping” magenta. “The complexity of flavors gives the soup an exotic taste, but it’s soul warming,” he says. For a beefier flavor, substitute low-sodium beef stock for some of the water.

Serves 8 to 10

2-2½ pounds (bone in) beef short ribs

1 Spanish onion, coarsely chopped

3 stalks celery, coarsely chopped

4 carrots, chopped

2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns

3 bay leaves

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes

8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

2 small red onions, halved lengthwise and cut into thin slices

3 medium red beets, trimmed, peeled, and cut into -inch-thick wedges

1 bulb fennel, trimmed, chopped into ½-inch pieces

½ medium red cabbage, cored, cut into 4 wedges and then into ½-inch-wide slices

1 small celeriac, peeled, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 2 cups)

½ cup red wine vinegar

¼ cup chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon whole cumin seed

¼ teaspoon whole caraway seed

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Sour cream and chopped chives or dill, for garnish

In a large soup pot, place the short ribs, Spanish onion, celery, ¼ of the chopped carrots, peppercorns, bay leaves, and 16 cups of water. Cover the pot and bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, covered, occasionally skimming off any foam, for about 2 hours or until the meat is very tender.

Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the ribs and any meat that has fallen off the bones and place on a cutting board. Remove the meat from the bones and discard the bones. Cut the meat into ¾- to 1-inch pieces and set aside.

Set a fine-mesh sieve or strainer over a large bowl and carefully pour the stock through the sieve. Discard the vegetables. As the stock cools, skim the fat from the surface.

Pour the stock back into the soup pot (you should have about 13 cups) and set over high heat. Add the remaining carrots, crushed tomatoes, garlic, red onions, beets, fennel, cabbage, celeriac, vinegar, dill, cumin, caraway, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently, uncovered, for about 40 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender. Add the beef chunks and simmer 15 minutes more. Taste for seasoning, adjusting as needed.

Ladle the vegetables and beef into soup bowls, then ladle stock on top. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkling of chives or dill.

Photo by Kristin Teig / Styling Catrine Kelty


FOR BARBARA LYNCH of Barbara Lynch Gruppo, which owns restaurants across Boston, including No. 9 Park and Menton, this is wintry comfort food. Dried peeled fava beans are available at Polcari’s Coffee in the North End and most Middle Eastern grocery stores. The easy soup, the chef says, can double as a pasta sauce.

Serves 6


1 pound dried peeled fava beans

¼ cup olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon (or more) crushed red pepper

2 sprigs rosemary

Salt and black pepper

In a large pot, place the fava beans and cover completely with cold water. Bring the water to a boil, then remove the pot from the heat and let sit for at least 1 hour. (Or soak the beans overnight in cool water.) Drain in a colander.

Wipe out the pot, add the oil, and heat over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and red pepper, and cook for 3 minutes or until the garlic is sizzling and fragrant but not browned. Add the fava beans and 5 to 6 cups of water to completely cover the beans. And the rosemary, increase the heat to high, and bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 45 to 55 minutes or until the beans are tender. Some of the beans will break down, others will remain whole or in chunks. Add a little more water if the soup seems too thick. Discard the rosemary sprigs and season with salt and black pepper.


1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1bunch broccoli rabe, trimmed, stems and leaves

cut into 2-inch lengths

Salt and pepper

In a large skillet, heat the oil and garlic over low heat just until the garlic starts to turn golden. Add the broccoli rabe and 1/3 cup water and cook, stirring often, for 6 to 8 minutes or until tender. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Top each with a serving of broccoli rabe and drizzle with olive oil.

Photo by Kristin Teig / Styling Catrine Kelty


PHILLIP TANG’S favorite wintertime soups are dark broths with noodles and vegetables, warming spices, and a hint of heat. At his restaurant, East by Northeast in Cambridge, the chef makes this “traditional Chinese beef noodle soup,” varying the vegetables depending on what’s in season.

Serves 5 to 6

4 whole star anise

3 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorns (or black peppercorns)

6 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and smashed

½ cinnamon stick

1 teaspoon whole cloves

½ cup sugar

1 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon (or more) sriracha sauce

3½ pounds beef shanks (cut as for osso buco)

1¼ pounds baby bok choy, trimmed, cut crosswise into 1-inch slices and rinsed well

1 pound Chinese wheat noodles (or fettuccine)

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Have ready 8 cups of water in a bowl or pitcher. In a small bowl, combine the star anise, peppercorns, garlic, ginger, cinnamon stick, and cloves.

In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water (not from the 8 cups) over medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and then boil, without stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes or until the caramel is golden.

Add the spice and garlic mixture to the caramel and boil, without stirring, for 30 to 60 seconds or just until the caramel turns slightly darker. Immediately (but carefully) pour in the 8 cups of water to stop the caramel from burning. The caramel will harden; stir to melt the caramel as the water heats.

Stir in the soy sauce, tomato paste, and sriracha, and bring to a boil. Add the beef shanks and return the liquid to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderate and simmer gently, covered, for about 2½ hours or until the meat is very tender and falling off the bones.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the beef from the pot and place on a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Set a fine-mesh sieve or strainer over a large bowl and pour the stock through the sieve. Discard the solids. As the stock cools, skim the fat from the surface.

Return the stock to the pot and taste for seasoning, adjusting as needed. (If the flavors are too strong, add a little water to dilute.) Set over medium-high heat. When gently simmering, add the beef chunks and bok choy. Cook for 5 minutes or until the bok choy is tender.

Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook according to the package directions or until firm-tender. Drain in a colander and rinse briefly with water.

Place the noodles in soup bowls, then ladle the soup over the noodles. Garnish with cilantro.

Lisa Zwirn is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to