My spouse and collaborator loves broccoli stems, the thicker the better, and he loves them best boiled, served still lukewarm and generously doused in olive oil. The florets on the other hand he considers an accident of nature, and he refuses to touch them. I had bought magnificent broccoli one day whose stems I had made, as I have just described, for lunch. But I hated to throw away the florets—they were so fresh, the buds very tightly clustered and their color a deep blue-green. So I acted on the thrifty Italian cook’s principle that you can make a good soup out of anything.
In truth, I didn’t have just anything. I had excellent meat broth in the freezer, lovely waxy boiling potatoes in the kitchen’s potato basket, basil growing in a sunny window, a fresh piece of Parmesan, and those perfect broccoli florets. I prepared a base of onion sliced thin and cooked very slowly to absolute softness in olive oil and butter. Why use both? Because the oil does terrific things for green vegetables such as broccoli, whereas the butter imparts a luscious quality that helps all the flavors come together. Many cooks in the farm country of my native Romagna do the same.
The garlic was sliced very thin and I let it just steam briefly, buried in the faintly moist onion, so that it stayed very sweet, which is the flavor accent I wanted in this soup. The potatoes were cut into small dice so that they dissolved as they cooked and contributed silken texture. Just before bringing it to the table, I swirled in a little raw butter, the basil, and the Parmesan. Broccoli florets notwithstanding,
© 1997 Marcella Hazan estate. All rights reserved.