Whether it's a hearty potato-leek soup to warm you up in winter or a refreshing chilled tomato soup for summer, soup delivers year-round comfort. In this week's episode of Mad Genius: Home Edition, our Culinary Director-at-Large Justin Chapple whips up one that's perfect for spring—spring herbs soup with fregola and pancetta. The recipe was inspired by s'erbuzzu, an herb- and greens-packed Sardinian soup, and it's a great way to take advantage of the fresh herbs you can get at the market. It's also incredibly simple to make, since everything comes together in one pot and two simple steps. You'll have a finished soup ready within the hour.
Read on for Justin's method and tips, and follow along with the video above.
Start with the Pancetta
Grab your Dutch oven and pour in the extra-virgin olive oil, heating it over medium. Next, add the pancetta—you're looking to render out the fat here, not to crisp it up, Justin notes. Once the fat is rendered, incorporate the chopped yellow onion and season the mixture with salt and pepper.
When the onions have softened, pour in the dry white wine to deglaze the pot, taking care to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom. Cook for four to five minutes until the liquid has almost completely reduced.
Add the Pasta and Cook
Then, add in the fregola sarda—you can sub in orzo or Israeli couscous if you can't find the fregola—along with the thinly sliced garlic, fennel seeds, and crushed red pepper. Let everything cook until it's "nice and fragrant."
Pour in the broth next, bringing the mixture to a boil over medium-high. When it's boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook until the fregola is "just al dente," about 14 to 16 minutes. (If you're using couscous or orzo, cook for eight to 10 minutes instead.)
Get Your Herbs
While the broth cooks, you'll want to prep all. those. herbs. And luckily, Justin has a helpful trick for removing the stems from the parsley. Grab a perforated or slotted spoon, insert the sprig into one of the holes, and pull it through. This will separate the leaves from the stem and save you a ton of time. With the tarragon, on the other hand, you'll want to be more gentle when removing the leaves with your fingers to avoid bruising them.
Make sure to use a sharp knife when chopping the herbs, and don't chop aggressively, either—they're tender, after all. As Justin demonstrates with his knife, the motion you want to use is more like a slice than a rough chop.
Add the Beans and Herbs, and Serve
Next, reduce the heat and get your cannellini beans into the pot—once they're warmed up, stir in the herbs. Then, turn the heat off immediately and enjoy the soup right away. (Don't forget a little pecorino Romano to sprinkle on top, too.) Incorporating the herbs at the last minute helps preserve their color and flavor. If you want to make it ahead of time, simply hold off on adding the herbs until right before you serve.
"I am not one to choose favorites, but I got to say the tarragon is really standing out here," Justin says. "It's light, but it's super satisfying. This is so perfect for spring."