Spring Herbs Soup with Fregola and Pancetta

Inspired by s’erbuzzu, a classic Sardinian soup packed with more than a dozen varieties of herbs and spring greens, this recipe delivers big flavor with fresh parsley, tarragon, and chives.

Video Transcript

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1 someone says they only use herbs for garnish, I want to pull my hair out. I want handfuls of herbs. I want pints. And we are going big today. We're making spring herbs soup with fregola and pancetta.

So this recipe is actually a version of a Sardinian herb soup. Traditionally, the herbs are foraged from the beautiful Mediterranean island of Sardinia. But today, my herbs are forged from aisle one at Peck's Market. Before we get to those herbs, we want to get our soup base going. Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven. In the olive oil, we are going to cook 4 ounces of diced pancetta. We're going to cook this for about three minutes. We're not looking for it to get crisp. We just want to render that fat because it's going to add a ton of flavor to this soup.

While this cook's let's go ahead and get our aromatics ready. Finely chop a medium onion. We're going to go ahead and just add that onion in there. We want to add some salt and pepper. We're going to cook this for about five minutes. We just want to soften the onion. This looks so good. But it smells even better. We're going to take it up another notch because we're going to de-glaze that pan with about 1/2 a cup of dry white wine.

While that's happening, you're just going to want to scrape up any brown bits from the pan because those are going to add a ton of flavor to your soup. One of the ingredients that makes this a classic Sardinian soup is fregola. It is a pearl like pasta that is toasted. It's one of my favorites. In a pinch, you can actually use Israeli couscous here. I'm going to go ahead and thinly slice two garlic cloves. All right. Garlic in. And 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds. And then crushed red pepper.

You just want to cook it till it's nice and fragrant. And then we're going to go in with some chicken broth. So we are using two quarts of chicken broth. We're going to bring this to a boil. And once that happens, we're going to knock that heat back. And we're going to let it simmer for about 14 to 16 minutes until that fregola is just al dente. And this is the perfect amount of time to talk herbs.

Most of the time when you buy parsley, you get these big bunches. And you got to figure out what to do with them. Well, you're going to make herb soup. Fortunately for you, I've got a Mad Genius tip for removing the stems from all this parsley. Take each sort of stem of parsley and you're going to insert it into your slotted spoon. And you're going to pull it. Magic.

Stem goes in the compost, leaves go in a pile. So we're going to need to finely chop this. But before we do, let's go ahead and start pulling our tarragon. Tarragon has sort of this anise or liquoricey flavor or aroma. And it's really, really tender. When you chop it, you want to be very sexy about it. And when you pull it off the stems, you want to just be sort of delicate as opposed to sort of running my hand all the way down, which can sometimes bruise the leaves.

If you are not a fan of tarragon or that liquoricey flavor, you can leave it out from this recipe. I will not kill you. And then, of course, we have some chives. We went all in with these herbs here. We've got all of them. Our fregola needs another couple of minutes, which is going to give us the perfect amount of time to chop all of these herbs. We don't want to be aggressive here. Make sure your knife is really sharp. And what you're going to do is sort of bunch up your herbs and then glide your knife through them almost like you're slicing them as opposed to chopping them.

I like to sort of scoop them up and then rotate them. And then I do the exact same thing and I slide my knife through one more time. All right. Parsley, done. And next up is the tarragon. So get that into a nice little pile. Last but certainly not least, are our chives here. Herbs chopped. And let's check our fregola.

Look at this. You could see it sort of swelled a little. It should be al dente, which means it should just be a little firm to the bite. Next thing is we're going to add some cannellini beans here. These are rinsed and drained. They're not going to only make this a little bit heartier, but they're going to pack in a little bit of protein. Because these beans are already cooked, once they're hot, you're ready to go. It is time to make this soup herbalicious. So first up, parsley. Next up, tarragon into the soup.

And finally, we're going in with those chives. Bam. You're going to want to cut that heat right away. Again, because these are really tender herbs and we're adding them at the last minute, at this point you got to serve it. You cannot wait. If you would like to sort of do this ahead, add the herbs right before you serve it. And we are ready to go here. Look at that. It's like the Emerald City in a pot. And we're just going to take this a little bit further. We're going to add a salty bite with some Pecorino Romano cheese.

OK, so now I'm going to taste it. Going to taste it. Unbelievable. Literally fantastic. I can't even. I can't even. I am not one to choose favorites, but I got to say, the tarragon is really standing out here. It's light but it's super satisfying. This is so perfect for spring. I mean, you barely need anything. You just need a Dutch oven, a few handfuls of herbs, and you are ready to go.

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