This week we're sharing a make-ahead dinner party menu from Ina Garten, and in our chat with her today, she talked about how simple a make-ahead menu can be — it's all in choosing recipes that are just as good made ahead. And when it comes to a dish that exemplifies that, soup is king.
Here's a delicious soup we chose as a first course. It's hearty and filling even with no meat, and Ina has a few extra tips for ways to finish it off in a special way.
In her own notes about this recipe, Ina explains, "Pearled farro is a whole grain that is now available in most grocery and health food stores. This soup with mushrooms, pancetta, and lots of vegetables is really hearty. I make it ahead, refrigerate it, and then reheat it, serving it with a dollop of crème fraîche and a swirl of Marsala wine."
Vegetarian & Vegan Adjustments
Obviously this does have pancetta, but that can be left out at little cost to the soup. There's plenty of oil to cook the vegetables in. Substitute vegetable broth for the beef broth, and the soup is vegetarian. Leave off the crème fraîche at the end and it's vegan too.
How Ina Finishes Off This Soup
This soup can simply be made ahead (and even frozen!) and reheated just before serving. If there's a little extra time, though, Ina likes to add a special finishing touch, like a crouton or bread. "As the flavor melds soup gets better, but I always try and put something with it," she told me. "Take a baguette and do big long diagonal slices — then grill it in the panini machine brushed with olive oil. You can do a lot at one time, and then you have something crunchy with the soup."
Yum! Thanks Ina!
This soup was rich, satisfying, and reminded me of a hearty cream of mushroom soup with all the farro, vegetables, and pancetta. Definitely great for dinner with some crusty bread or a green salad!
My package of farro wasn't specifically labeled "pearled," but it did have a suggested cooking time of 45 minutes, which is the same as this recipe, so it ended up working just fine. If you can't find crème fraîche, use sour cream instead.
- Christine, April 2015
Wild Mushroom & Farro Soup
1 1/2 ounces dried wild mushrooms, such as morels or porcini
3 tablespoons good olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, 1/2-inch-diced
3 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) peeled carrots (3 to 4 carrots)
2 cups (1/2-inch-diced) celery (3 to 4 stalks)
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
3/4 cup pearled farro (5 ounces) (See Recipe Note)
12 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stems discarded, 1/4-inch-sliced
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry Marsala wine, divided
4 cups canned beef broth, such as College Inn
3 large sprigs fresh thyme, tied together with kitchen twine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 ounces crème fraîche
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Place the dried mushrooms and 6 cups of water in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, cover, and set aside for at least 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the pancetta, onions, carrots, and celery and sauté over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and farro and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cremini mushrooms and the 1/2 cup Marsala and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mushrooms have released some of their liquid.
Meanwhile, strain the dried mushrooms through cheesecloth, reserving the liquid. Coarsely chop the mushrooms and add them to the pot, along with the strained soaking liquid, beef broth, thyme, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer partially covered for 45 minutes, until the farro is tender. Discard the thyme bundle.
In a small bowl, mash together the flour and butter and stir into the hot soup. Simmer for 5 minutes, then stir in the crème fraîche and remaining 2 tablespoons of Marsala, and taste for seasonings. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve hot.
- Be sure you buy "pearled" farro; regular farro takes much longer to cook.
- Prepare the soup completely. Refrigerate for up to a week or freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat before serving.
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Reprinted from Make it Ahead: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. Copyright © 2014 by Ina Garten. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC