Derek hasn’t been feeling that great the past few days. While it may have something to do with the condition of his liver, it is more likely that his ulcerative colitis is acting up a little. He hasn’t had a significant flare in almost 5 years, though he has had some minor setbacks since the last major episode. Our general plan when this happens is to go back to the basics when it comes to food. Little or no sugar (Derek has a sweet tooth, so this is a challenge), very little wheat, add in more leafy greens, plain cooked proteins and lots of water. We’ve also added in probiotics which may or may not help, but certainly won’t hurt. I also tend to make soup when he’s having this issue since the vegetables get cooked in broth making them easier to digest, but they still retain their nutrients. Acidic food is not so great for Derek when his belly is hurting, but our good friend Emily taught us that carrots help neutralize acids, so we add them to just about everything.
I’ve been making this particular soup for years, and we just made it this week so I thought I would share the recipe. Batali’s original recipe calls for ham or prosciutto, and I have made it with that in the past, but I don’t really think it adds all that much so I’ve omitted it. Sometimes I add chickpeas for extra protein.
Adapted from Mario Batali’s recipe
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
- 1 large onion, cut into large dice
- 2 celery stalks, cut into large dice
- 2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 moon shapes
- 2 clove garlic, mashed, pressed or diced
- 4 medium tomatoes, fresh or canned, peeled and roughly chopped (Tomatoes are acidic, but there’s not too much in this soup, and I like to believe the carrots help cancel it out a bit.)
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped Italian parsley leaves
- 6 cups hot vegetable stock or chicken stock
- a hunk of parmesan rind
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper (Taste this before you add the salt. I rarely have to add any salt because of the stock and the parmesan rind.)
- 2 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced
- 1 cup cooked or canned chickpeas (Note: I love cooking dried chickpeas at home. You get to control the amount of salt, and the broth that it makes is so good for mashed potatoes or even in place of some of the chicken or vegetable broth for this soup. If you use canned, I would recommend rinsing the beans before adding to the soup.)
- 3/4 cup arborio rice
- 2 yellow, red, or orange bell peppers, roasted, cored, skinned, seeded and cut into strips (This is so worth the extra work of roasting and peeling. It tastes so good in the soup.)
- Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 6 fresh chopped basil leaves (Or 2-3 of those frozen basil cubes since I invariably forget to buy basil.)
In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the onion and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Lower the heat to low, and add the celery, carrots and garlic. Allow to simmer over low heat until the vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the parsley. Cook for 5 more minutes so that the flavors meld.
Add the hot water or stock, the hunk of parmesan rind and season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, and add the zucchini, chickpeas, and the rice. Bring back to a boil and then lower the heat so that the liquid is simmering. Let simmer gently until the rice is cooked, about 40 minutes. Remember to stir the soup occasionally. Add more water or stock, if necessary. (I almost always have to add stock. This soup gets very thick and porridge-like, just the way Derek likes it!)
When the rice is cooked, add the roasted peppers and remove the soup from the heat. Stir in Parmesan, to taste, and top each serving with some chopped basil. (or stir the frozen basil cubes into the big pot of deliciousness.)