Recipes and hints from 57th Ward Soup Night

Classic Broccoli and Cheese Soup (large batch)

3 small or 2 medium bunches of broccoli (or 1 bag of frozen)

4 large celery stalks

1 large onion

2 cans condensed cream of celery soup

1 can condensed cheddar cheese soup

6-8 cups of water or more with 1-2 T. bouillon added, or chicken broth

1 pint half-and-half

12 slices American cheese

½-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Cornstarch to thicken (1/4 c. or so)

Cut broccoli into small pieces.  Some of the stem can be chopped small and added, too.  Celery and onion should be small-diced.  Vegetables may be sautéed or “sweated” first if desired.  Combine vegetables in large pot or large crock pot with condensed soups, water and bouillon or broth.  (Add as much water will fit in your pot, leaving enough room for the addition of the half-and-half later.)  Add bay leaf if desired.  Cook until vegetables are tender (2-3 hours on high or 4-5 hours on low for crock pot.)  Add cornstarch, which has been mixed with about the same amount of cold water, to boiling soup.  Allow to thicken.  If soup is not hot enough, it will not thicken.  Add cheeses, a little at a time (1-2 slices), stirring to melt.  Add half-and-half last, and allow soup to re-heat to serving temperature if it has cooled.  Add seasonings to taste, which may include black pepper, thyme, sage, parsley, etc.  I like to add up to ½ tsp. ground cayenne pepper, which should make the soup taste “warm” without adding a noticeable “spiciness”.

This makes a large batch.

Taco Soup with Beef

1 small to medium beef roast, or cooked ground beef, diced chicken, etc.

1 large diced onion (sautéed if desired)

1-2 cans black beans, undrained

1 can kidney beans, undrained

1 can corn, undrained

1-2 cans diced tomatoes, undrained

1 small can diced green chilies

1 pouch taco seasoning mix

1 pouch ranch dressing mix

If desired, cook beef roast in crock pot with some quartered onion, garlic, and salt until tender (3-4 hrs on high or 6-8 hrs on low.)  Remove roast, discarding onion and garlic, and wait until it is cool enough to handle, then slice and shred into small pieces.  Return to cleaned crock pot or soup pot on stove.  Alternatively, add cooked ground beef (such as leftover taco meat) or cooked diced chicken to pot.  Add remaining ingredients, stir, and cook until onion has cooked through, soup is hot, and flavors have blended, in crock pot for 2-3 hrs on high or on stove for 25 minutes or so. For even more flavor, garnish with your choice of sour cream, chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, tortilla chips, and cheddar cheese.

Creamy Reuben Soup

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup sliced celery

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 tablespoons water

3/4 cup sauerkraut, rinsed and drained

2 cups half-and-half cream

2 cups chopped cooked corned beef

1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Swiss cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Rye croutons, optional

In a large saucepan, saute onion and celery in butter until tender. Add broth and baking soda. Combine cornstarch and water until smooth; gradually add to pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Reduce heat. Add sauerkraut, cream and corned beef; simmer and stir for 15 minutes. Add cheese; heat until melted. Add salt and pepper. Garnish with croutons if desired. Yield: about 6 servings.

Gourmet Secret Italian Soup




2 cup(s) 2% MILK

2 cup(s) HALF & HALF


1 teaspoon(s) ONION POWDER

1 teaspoon(s) GARLIC POWDER

1 teaspoon(s) DRIED BASIL

1/2 teaspoon(s) SALT







Sweet Potato Soup with Kielbasa variation

2 large sweet potatoes (yams) peeled, cubed, and oven roasted

½ c. onion

¼ c. carrot

¼ c. celery

1 t. garlic

2 T. flour

6 cups chicken broth

1/4 t. cinnamon

1/8 t. cloves

1/8 t. ginger

1/8 t. cayenne

¼ to ½ c. brown sugar

Heat broth in a pot and add the roasted sweet potatoes.  Sauté the onion,  carrot, celery and garlic in a small amount of olive oil or olive oil and butter. (Or an oil of your choice.) When the vegetables have softened add the flour and continue to cook for at least 2 minutes.  Add a little of the broth and keep stirring. Add the sautéed veggies to the broth pot and carefully use an immersion blender to bring the mixture to a smooth texture.  Add the spices and sugar. Adjust the sweetness to taste. Add a little more water if it’s too thick for your liking.

Serve “as is” for a beginning course, or continue for a full bodied soup:

Chop ½  a package of kielbasa sausage (or another sausage of your preference) and lightly sauté with a few more onions, carrots  and celery. Rough chop two big handfuls of kale or spinach and add to the sauté pan. When they are heated and the greens have wilted, add to the pot of soup.

Mushroom and Bread Soup with Parsley

6 T. butter

2 lbs. brown mushrooms, sliced

2 onions, roughly chopped

2 ½ c. milk

8 slices white bread

4 T. chopped fresh parsley

1 ¼ c. heavy cream (half and half)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter.  Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté for about 10 minutes until soft but not brown.  Stir in the milk.  Tear the bread into pieces, drop them into the soup, and leave them to soak for 15 minutes off the heat.  Puree the soup and return it to the pan.  Add 3 T. parsley, the cream, and seasoning to taste.  Serve garnished with the remaining parsley.

Italian Sausage Soup


7         Or  8 ea         Yukon gold potatoes, (or 5 or 6 russets) thinly sliced and quartered, leave peel on.

1 ea                        onion, finely chopped

2 cloves                                garlic, minced

2 large hand

fulls        spinach (can use arugula or kale) coarsely chopped

½ lb                        mild Italian sausage

4 Cups                   chicken stock

1 cup                     heavy cream (can cut back to ½ if desired)

½ cup                    freshly grated Parmesian cheese (optional)


  1. Crumble and brown the sausage, with the onion and garlic
  2. In a large saucepan, simmer the potatoes in the chicken stock. Once the potatoes are tender, scoop out about half, along with some broth, and blend until smooth in a blender or food processessor.  Return the mixture to the pan.
  3. Drain the sausage and add to the soup.
  4. Add the spinach and simmer a few minutes.
  5. Add the cream and cheese.
  6. Season with kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper.
  7. Garnish with extra Parmesian.

Oriental Beef Noodle Soup

¼ oz. dried porcini mushrooms

2/3 c. boiling water

6 scallions

4 oz. carrots

12 oz. sirloin steak

About 2 T. oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

1-inch piece ginger root, peeled and minced

1 ¼ quarts beef stock

3 T. soy sauce (low sodium)

3 oz. thin spaghetti noodles

1 c. shredded spinach

Salt and pepper

Break the mushrooms into small pieces.  Place in a bowl and pour the boiling water over, and leave to soak for 15 minutes.

Shred the scallions and carrots into 2-inch long, fine strips.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the beef in batches and cook until brown, adding a little more oil if necessary.  Remove the beef with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Add the garlic, ginger, scallions and carrots to the pan and stir-fry for 3 minutes.

Add the beef, beef stock, the mushrooms and their soaking liquid, and soy sauce.  Season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Break up the noodles and add to the pan with the shredded spinach.  Simmer for 5 minutes, until the beef is tender.  Adjust the seasoning to taste before serving.

Bean and Ham soup


2 cups   navy beans

6 cups   chcken broth

2 ea        Ham Hocks (Can use raw bacon or ham bone. )

3 small  carrots, minced

3 stalks                 celery, minced

1 ea        onion, minced

1 tsp      thyme

2 -4 ea    garlic cloves, minced

1 (4 ounce) can tomato paste

1 dash   cayenne (can use crushed red pepper flakes)

3 drops liquid smoke

salt and pepper


  1. Soak beans overnight and discard water. (Or use the fast method. Cover beans with 1 ½ inches of water, bring to a rapid boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat and cover. Let sit for 1 hour. Discard water.)
  2. Place all ingredients except wine vinegar, liquid smoke, salt and pepper into a large kettle.
  3. Simmer until beans are tender. Depending on the size of bean, may take from 1 hour to 3 hours.
  4. Puree 2 cups of the mixture and return to the kettle.
  5. Add liquid smoke, and season with salt and pepper.

Suggestions for working with soups

  1. Prepare soup 1 to 2 days in advance to let flavors blend.
  2. Reserve the vegetable cooking water and use in place of plain water to improve soup flavor.
  3. Shin, marrow, neck and oxtail bones are best for stock flavoring.
  4. Veal knuckles are best for making jellied stocks.
  5. If soup tastes thin or weak, add bouillon cubes or powder as a strengthener.
  6. Cool soup uncovered as quickly as possible by placing pot in sink of ice water.
  7. Cold soups dull the tastebuds and usually need more seasonings than hot soup. Taste and adjust before serving.
  8. If using beer or wine in the soup, reduce salt slightly.
  9. Wine added to soups should be done shortly before serving and do not let it boil.
  10. Too much wine will make soup bitter. 1/4 to 1/3 cup per quart is plenty.
  11. When reducing or boiling down a soup stock, do not add salt until the end.
  12. If soup is too salty, add half a peeled raw potato and simmer about 15 minutes to absorb excess salt and then remove potato.
  13. 1 teaspoon of sugar or light brown sugar will mellow the acidity of tomato soup.
  14. Vegetable cream soups can be thickened by pureeing some of the vegetables with a bit of the liquid.
  15. Add herbs at the end to preserve the most flavor.
  16. As a general rule, 1 quart soup equals 6 first-course servings or 3 to 4 main course servings.
  17. Use a soup tureen when serving soup as a main course to lend elegance to the table and keep soup hot for seconds.
  18. Match a light-flavored soup to a rich or spicy main dish and vice versa.


Soup can be anything you want it to be – quick, hearty, light – and once you master the basics, you can experiment endlessly with your favorite vegetables, beans, and meats to make tasty meals in no time. Cooking homemade soup can be easy and makes wonderfully satisfying meals.

Can’t wait to get started? Check out these seasonal soup recipes (including Chill-Chasing Fall SoupsFresh Spring SoupsChilled Summer Soups, and Warming Winter Soups).

1. Start With Delicious Liquid

Photo © Molly Watson

Soups are mostly water, but it’s often disguised as broth or stock, wine, or milk. Whatever the liquid in your soup is, use one that you would want to drink.

The vast majority of the time, the liquid in soup is stock or broth. Best to use homemade, but many delis and butchers sell freshly made frozen stock that works great too. If you buy mass-produced broth, dilute it with water (about 4 parts broth to 1 part water) and find a brand sold in boxes instead of cans to avoid a slight tinny taste.

When adding wine to soups, be sure to bring it to a boil and let it cook for at least 10 minutes to cook off the harshest of the alcohol.

For cream- or milk-based soups, use fresh dairy products (this is no time to “make us of” expired cartons!)

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2. Sweat the Aromatics

Photo © Molly Watson

Aromatics include onions, leeks, garlic, and often celery and carrots. Cooking them over low to medium heat in the pan before adding any liquid will help soften their texture and blend their flavors. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are soft but not browning, about 5 minutes. The goal is to break down their cellulose (making them easier to eat or purée later) and get them to give off some of their liquid, which will deepen the flavor of the soup.

Peel and chop onions as uniformly as you can so they cook evenly.

Clean and chop leeks to remove grit.

3. Use the Right Tools

Photo © Le Creuset

Technically all you need is a heat-proof vessel and heat, but if you want to make soups that shine, see the handful of kitchen tools that will make it easier: a large and heavy pot, a powerful blender or immersion blender, an ample soup ladle.

4. Salt in Layers

Photo © Molly Watson

Canned and prepared soups are known to be high in sodium. There’s a reason: all that water takes a lot of salt to flavor! The difference between soul-satisfying homemade soup and “why did I bother?” homemade soup is often in the salt. Cooks, afraid of over-salting, create pots of soup just a teaspoon or two shy of proper seasoning.

Salt soup as chefs do: in layers. Add some salt to the aromatics and other vegetables as you cook them. If you’re cooking the meat separately, make sure it is well seasoned before it goes into the pot. And, most importantly, taste it before serving and add salt until you taste a hike-up in flavor, then stop.

5. Hit It With Freshness

Photo © Molly Watson

You’ve used great ingredients. You’ve cooked and salted them properly. How to make the most of it all before it hits the table? Add a bit of something fresh right at the end. Fresh herbs, fresh citrus juice, a dollop or two of cream or yogurt. A hit of something un-cooked and un-simmered will highlight the deep, delicious, melded flavors in the rest of the soup.

6. Garnish Like a Pro

Photo © Molly Watson

Go beyond chopped parsley and freshly ground black pepper (although they both make great garnishes for many soups!). Chefs know that the best soup garnishes offer a contrasting flavor or texture to both compliment and highlight the soup.

  • Crunchy on smooth (small croutons or crackers on a silky leek soup)
  • Smooth on chunky (sour cream on borscht)
  • Bitter on savory (herbs or black pepper on lentil soup or almost anything
  • salty on sweet (prosciutto in sweet potato)