Every spoonful of this soup, with its tender morsels of carrots and shredded greens, is a welcome taste of spring. Arborio rice and thinly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese add just enough heft. Use a variety of lettuces for a mix of colors and textures. I especially like to add radicchio di Treviso, a longer, slimmer version of the more common radicchio di Chioggia, but either is fine. The greens lose their bright hue when you cook them, taking on muted, earthy tones. I find the softened appearance pleasing, but if you want to perk up the color, gently stir in another handful or two of spinach during the last few minutes of cooking. Adding a small rind of Parmigiano while the soup is simmering boosts the flavor of the broth. This recipe is adapted from my book The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy (Chronicle Books 2006).
Domenica Marchetti for NPR
Makes 6 first-course servings
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1 rib celery, trimmed and finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
1 tablespoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, or to taste
1 small head butter lettuce, washed, trimmed and shredded
1 small head romaine lettuce, washed, trimmed and shredded
1 small head radicchio di Treviso, radicchio di Chioggia or escarole, washed, trimmed and shredded
3 to 4 cups baby spinach leaves, washed
6 cups homemade chicken broth or best-quality low-sodium, fat-free commercial chicken broth
1 small piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (optional)
1 cup Arborio or other risotto rice
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup thinly shaved or freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
In a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot with a lid, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. When the butter has melted and begins to sizzle, stir in the carrot, celery, onion and parsley, and saute for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables have begun to soften and the onion is translucent. Season with salt and then stir in the butter and romaine lettuces, radicchio and spinach, tossing the greens so that they are well-coated with the other ingredients. Cook, stirring from time to time, for 5 minutes or so, just until the greens have wilted.
Pour in the broth and toss in the Parmigiano rind, if using, and bring the broth to a gentle simmer. Stir in the rice, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let the soup simmer gently for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Taste and season with additional salt if necessary and a generous grinding of black pepper. Stir in 1/2 cup of the shaved or grated Parmigiano cheese.
Ladle the soup into a serving tureen or into individual bowls. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and the remaining cheese.