Italian Nonna Soup: The Perfect Winter Warmer

Italian Nonna Soup Recipe |

Wintertime demands an antidote, and my solution is a warming bowl of fabulous soup.

As a bonus, this recipe conforms to my weight-loss plan because it’s low in fat, steers clear of empty starches and focuses on hearty whole grains, legumes and root veggies. It’s even better with a spoonful of kale pesto stirred into each bowl. Make a meal of it with a lemon and olive oil-dressed salad, tossed with cubes of feta cheese. A nice glass of red wine, some crusty whole grain bread, and you’re on the way to a new you!

Italian Nonna Soup

Makes 8 generous servings

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 ounces pancetta, chopped (omit for vegetarian version)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut in 1/8-inch thick half-moons
  • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut in 1/8-inch thick half-moons
  • 3 celery stalks, sliced thinly
  • 1 onion, cut in half, sliced thinly
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup farro (also called emmer wheat)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 quarts chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarian version)
  • 1/2 cup uncooked lentils (I like the Spanish pardilla best), rinsed and picked over
  • 14-ounce can cooked chickpeas or bortolotti beans, drained and rinsed
  • Secret flavor ingredient: a Parmesan cheese rind (you can get them at the Whole Foods cheese counter)
  • 6 big kale leaves, stemmed and shredded
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley


1. Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Add pancetta and sauté until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

2. Add carrots, parsnips, celery, onions and garlic. Saute until veggies are wilted and onions are translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add farro and tomato paste and sauté for 1 minute to coat grains evenly. Add white wine, increase heat to high. Cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally, to reduce liquid. Add lentils, chicken stock, and cheese rind. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer for 1/2 hour. Add chickpeas or beans and the kale, cover the pot and simmer for 1/2 hour. Stir in parsley, remove cheese rind and serve with grated Parmesan and kale or basil pesto.

For Kale Pesto: Substitute kale (one bunch stemmed, blanched and squeezed dry) for the fresh basil in your favorite pesto recipe. Add a squeeze of lemon to brighten.

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