By Ippolita Douglas Scotti:
If you're lucky enough to travel to Italy in October, you are in for a treat. The tourists have scuttled back home after peak season, the oppressive heat has backed away, the Italian natives have returned to their shops, and the evenings are cool with an occasional rain to freshen the piazzas. There is nothing like Autumn in Firenze.
This time of year is Pavlovian for me—the cooler temperatures always make my mouth water for homemade soups (la zuppa) concocted from delicious seasonal vegetables from the Mercato di San Lorenzo. La zuppa is the ultimate Italian comfort food for those chilly nights that wait just around the corner.
So, imagine sitting in the Piazza della Signoria watching the October skies above Michelangelo's David (the original is sculpture is not far away in the Galleria dell'Accademia), Bandinelli's Hercules and Cacus, the Nettuno by Ammannati, Giambologna's majestic equestrian statue of Cosimo I and the dramatic The Rape of the Sabine Women in the Loggia dei Lanzi. Now imagine an elegant Italian cameriere serving you a piping hot bowl of delicious soup and pouring you a hearty glass of Brunello di Montalcino —the king of wines. Can you imagine it? Ah.... Food, Wine and Art—it must be Firenze!
Here are two of my favorite go-to soups that are indicative of my hometown. They are simple to make and a perfect October meal with bread for dipping alongside a simple green salad and mandatory glass of vino.
Pasta e Ceci
(Garbanzo Bean Soup)
A peasant soup from the ancient Tuscan way of cooking. Deliciously tasty and healthy. A rich dish that speaks for itself. Strong red wine is the perfect pairing for this soup.
1 can garbanzo beans 1 Tbsp olive oil 1 clove garlic 1 cup water 1 cup short maccheroncini pasta 1 teaspoon rosemary Salt and pepper 1 slice bacon or pancetta, chopped
Brown rosemary and garlic in the olive oil. Add the whole can of beans with liquid, salt, pepper, and bacon. Add water and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cover, bringing to a low boil for approximately 20 minutes. Serve hot with grated Parmesan.
Zuppa di Legumi
A rich soup you can keep in the fridge for days. Healthy and comforting, this recipe comes directly from the Tuscan middle ages. A smart dish for crowded dinners. Perfect with strong red wine.
1 cup lentils 1 cup white beans
1 cup garbanzo beans
1 cup organic rice 1 quart water 1 quart vegetable broth
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, diced 1 onion, diced
Sage and rosemary
2 slices bacon or pancetta, chopped
1 tablespoon snipped chives 1 cup red wine Salt and pepper
Red pepper flakes 3 Tbs olive oil
Combine all beans in a bowl with herbs, salt, and hot pepper flakes. Brown carrot, onion celery, and bacon in olive oil. Add water and bring to a boil. Add beans. Gradually add the broth. Boil over low flame, covering the pot for 2 hours. Add wine and chives. Simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with grated Parmesan on top.
Contessa Ippolita Douglas Scotti di Vigileno is a true Italian—born in Florence, Italy, from a long line of eccentric Italian aristocrats, she has traveled the world in search of adventure, romance, and magical, mouth-watering recipes. "Ippo" loves Italian history, especially as it relates to food. Author of There's a Beatle in My Soup, Curcuma e Zenzero (Ginger & Tumeric), 101 Perche Sulla Storia di Firenze (101 questions on Florence History), and Superfoods, Ippo is currently finishing her latest work, The Lords of Florence (all published by Newton Compton Publishers).