Soup season in Tuscany doesn’t end once spring begins. But that means the soups that are served take on a different tone. A soup that bridges the seasons is garmugia. It is a specialty of the city of Lucca. It marries the heat of pancetta, beef broth and ground beef or veal with freshly picked artichokes, peas, broad beans and asparagus. To make an easy weekday garmugia, the chefs at Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street reduce meats and use canned artichokes. They include pancetta and beef broth so the finished dish is satisfying without being heavy. Simmering it with a parmesan crust enhances the umami notes.
Soup season in Tuscany doesn’t end once spring begins, but that means the soups start to take on a different tone.
Garmugia, for example, a specialty from the city of Lucca, bridges the seasons by marrying a strong backbone of pancetta, meat and beef broth or ground veal with artichokes, peas, broad beans and freshly picked asparagus – the first tender vegetables of spring. . Like the season itself, garmugia bursts with contrasts, both tender and bold, both lush green yet robust and fleshy.
Considered to have originated in the Renaissance era, garmugia was a dish worthy of a feast for the rich and powerful. Most Tuscan soups artfully reuse leftovers, but only the best ingredients go into garmugia, a pairing of expensive meats and the freshest vegetables in season.
For the garmugia-inspired soup from our book ‘Tuesday Nights Mediterranean’, which offers meals from the region suitable for weeknights, we reduced the meat but used pancetta and beef broth to make the finished dish satisfying without being heavy. And we simmer a parmesan crust in the mixture to boost the umami notes.
Canned artichoke hearts work well here, but frozen artichokes also work – just thaw and pat dry before using (you’ll need about 2 cups). To serve as an accompaniment, we prepare tasty parmesan toasts that are perfect for dipping in the broth.
Be careful not to use asparagus that is too thin, as it will end up being overcooked. Look for pencil-sized spears. And to maintain the bright green color of the peas, don’t let the soup boil after you stir the peas.
Tuscan Spring Vegetable Soup
Start to finish: 30 minutes Servings: 4
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for serving
3 to 4 ounces pancetta, chopped
4 green onions, thinly sliced, white and green reserved separately
4 sprigs of thyme
1½ liters low sodium beef broth
1 piece of parmesan rind (optional), plus ½ ounce finely grated parmesan (¼ cup)
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
8 ounces crusty white bread, sliced
½ inch thick
14 ounces artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and quartered
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths on the diagonal
½ cup frozen peas, thawed
Heat the grill with a grate about 6 inches from the element. In a large saucepan over medium heat, combine 1 tablespoon of oil and the pancetta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta has rendered its fat and is beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the shallot whites and thyme. Cook until green onions are lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Add broth, Parmesan zest (if using) and ½ teaspoon pepper, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Meanwhile, brush both sides of the bread slices with the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil, then place in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan, then toast until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Put aside.
When the soup comes to a boil, add the artichokes, reduce to medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add asparagus and cook, stirring occasionally, until asparagus is just tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in peas, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring, until peas are heated through, about 3 minutes; do not let the soup boil.
Off the heat, remove and discard the thyme and Parmesan zest (if using). Stir in the green onion leaves, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls, drizzle with additional oil and serve with Parmesan toast.