Clean Out The Fridge Soup
- Fat: Please use olive oil. Thank you.
- Salt: We have a salt grinder filled with coarse sea salt. It's less salty than table salt.
- Black Pepper: If you can, always use freshly ground black pepper.
- Spices: Red pepper flakes. This is personal preference so you can use whatever spices you have to season the soup to make it delicious. I tend towards less is more.
- Onion: whatever you have on hand is fine. In this soup I used one yellow onion plus three scallions.
- Garlic: I used four cloves, but this is personal preference.
- Carrots: I used three medium-sized carrots that we had lying about in the crisper drawer.
- Celery: I used two stalks of celery. Whatever you have on hand is fine. Be sure to use the stalks and the leaves as the leaves add flavor.
- Broth or water: Use 6 cups of chicken broth or vegetable broth or a combination of broth and water. Again, we're cleaning out the fridge so use what you have.
- Base extra: tomato paste or white wine to deglaze the pan before adding the other ingredients.
- Honestly, use whatever veggies you have on hand that are headed towards past their prime and haven't been assigned to a particular meal. In this soup I used two zucchini rolling around the crisper drawer. This is a good time to use spinach, swiss chard, kale, any squash, peppers, tomatoes, etc.
- Cheese: If you have a Parmesan rind in the fridge, toss it in the soup as it will add a lot of flavor. Alternatively, you could grate some Parmesan or Pecorino on the soup at the table.
- Meat: You can tell in the photo above that I added meatballs. We had some ground pork in the fridge so I rolled it into very tiny meatballs made with just some garlic, salt, and pepper. You could throw in leftover chicken, Italian sausage, ground turkey or beef, cubed ham, bacon. Again, use what you have in the fridge that needs to be used so it won't be wasted.
- Herbs: If you have thyme, throw a couple of sprigs in. Some rosemary leaves might be nice. Garnishing the soup with some chopped parsley at the end will add a touch of color and might even go so far as to remind you of dining in a restaurant.
- Chop the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot.
- In a 4-quart or larger soup pot or stock pot, heat about three tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the chopped onion, garlic, celery, and carrot to the pot. Add a pinch or more of red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon of salt, and many grinds of black pepper. Cook until the onion is starting to brown, stirring occasionally to prevent the garlic from burning. If the pan is looking dry, by all means add another bit of olive oil as it is what an Italian grandmother would do.
- If you are using tomato paste, add 2 to 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup), and stir it around the pan both to mix it with the onions and to cook it. Cook the tomato paste for one minute.
- If you are using wine, add up to 1/2 cup and stir it around the pan to deglaze it and scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pot.
- Add the broth or broth-water and stir to combine. Scrape the bottom of the pan to incorporate the brown bits into the soup. The bits have a lot of flavor. Chop any vegetables you are adding, such a squash or a tomato, spinach or chard, and then add them to the soup. If you are using thyme or rosemary, add them now. Also, this is the time to add a Parmesan cheese rind if you are using that. Turn the heat down to low or simmer and put a lid on the pot.
- While the soup simmers, this is the time to prepare your meat. If it's already cooked, then chop it or shred it, whatever is most appropriate. If the meat needs to be cooked, do that now. Once the meat is cooked and in bite-sized pieces, add it to the soup. Simmer for an additional five to 10 minutes. Taste the soup. What does it need? It might need some salt. If it tastes flat, a splash of red wine vinegar or some lemon juice (~2 tablespoons) can brighten it.
- Ladle the soup in bowls, and garnish with parsley if you have it. Serve hot.