Blame it on the winter cold, sniffles and flu, or maybe it’s the economy, but all we seem to want to eat lately is soup. Last night I made chicken soup with escarole, today it will be Regaleali Wheat Berry Soup, a recipe from my friend Anna Tasca Lanza. The recipe first appeared in my cookbook, A Fresh Taste of Italy.
Together with her daughter Fabrizia, Anna operates the Anna Tasca Lanza Cooking School on her family’s winery and farm in Vallelunga in central Sicily. Anna makes the soup with grains of the hard durum wheat for which Sicily has long been famous. Anna served us this soup the first time we visited the farm a number of years ago. I use wheat berries or farro, whatever I happen to have on hand, plus cannellini beans, canned Italian peeled tomatoes, some white wine and a few staples like onions, garlic and celery. I particularly like the battuto, as Anna called it, a finely chopped blend of herbs, garlic and pecorino that finishes the soup and really lifts the flavor.
Here is the recipe:
REGALEALI WHEAT BERRY SOUP
1 pound (about 2 cups) durum wheat berries or farro
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1-1/2 cups canned Italian peeled tomatoes with their juice
6 cups beef broth, preferably homemade
1 cup dry white wine
Salt to taste
Pinch of crushed red pepper
4 cups cooked cannellini, or 2 cans (16 ounces each) drained and rinsed
1/4 cups chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 or 2 garlic cloves, minces
1/3 cup freshly grated pecorino romano
In a large pot combine the wheat, vegetables, broth, winne, salt and crushed red pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Add the beans and cook ofr 30 minutes more or until the wheat is tender.
Combine the ingredients for the battuto. Spoon the soup into serving bowls. Drizzle each portion with a little oil. Sprinkle the battuto over the hot soup just before serving or pass it at the table. Serve hot or at room temperature.
I had an opportunity to visit Anna and Franca at Regaleali again with a small group on one of the culinary tours Charles and I lead for Tour de Forks. Here is a picture of Anna, Franca and I showing the group how to make panelle, Sicilian chick pea fritters. Anna’s method is to spread the chick pea batter on dinner plates to set up. Then she peels it off the plates, cuts it into wedges and fries them til crisp. They were sensational. Perhaps I will make some tonight, as a starter before the soup. That should have us dreaming of Sicily!