An Italian Chef’s Pea Soup

Pisellata alla MacerataA cold night.  Got home late.  I’m hungry and there is nothing much in the refrigerator.  Check the freezer.  Frozen peas, some chopped pancetta, bread.  Yes, I have an onion and some garlic.   Perfect!  We’ll have a great dinner.

Pisellata is a simple soup from the Marche region of Italy.  I came across the recipe in a book called Luigi Carnacina Presents Italian Home Cooking given to me by my friend Diane some years ago.  Luigi Carnacina was a great Italian chef and the author of many cookbooks.  According to his bio, he was a protege of Escoffier.  The book was written in 1972 when Carnacina was 83 years old.  Whenever I browse through it, I am amazed at how practical and timeless the recipes are.

Of course, I added a few touches of my own to his soup recipe, substituting pancetta for his salt pork, using frozen peas (which I always keep in the house), and poaching an egg in the finished soup.   But that’s what home cooking is all about, and I think the chef would appr0ve.

Pea Soup Macerata Style

Pisellata alla Maceratese

Makes 4 Servings

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 ounces chopped pancetta

1 small onion, chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 cup chopped Italian peeled tomatoes (I used canned cherry tomatoes)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

6 cups water

1 pound frozen peas

Thin slices Italian bread, toasted

Optional but good:

4 eggs

Grated Pecorino Romano

In a large soup pot, cook the onion and pancetta in the oil until tender, about 8 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and parsley and cook one minute more.  Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt.  Add the water and bring it to a boil.

Stir in the peas and bring it to a simmer.  Cook 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

When ready to serve, break an egg (if using) into a cup.  Carefully tip the egg on top of the soup.  Repeat with the remaining eggs.  Turn off the heat.  Cover the pot and let the eggs cook a few minutes until done to taste.

Place a slice or two of bread in each soup plate.  Spoon an egg and some of the soup over the bread.  Sprinkle with cheese, if using.  Serve hot.

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    • Michele Scicolone