I can tell autumn has arrived when I’m welcomed by a chill when I go downstairs in the morning to open the windows; when I fish out my heavier scarves from the wardrobe to protect myself from the cold wind; when apples, pears, chestnuts, mushrooms, and squashes begin to crowd the market stalls.
But most importantly, I know autumn has truly arrived when I find myself craving soup every other night. I might make a simple vegetable minestrone, a thick and creamy chickpea and pumpkin soup, a clear chicken broth speckled with tiny pastina, or a hearty barley and cabbage soup hailing from the Alps. If summer is all about the salads, fall is when soups make their glorious return to home kitchens and trattorias alike.
To quote the writer Laurie Colwin, from “Home Cooking”: “There is nothing like soup. It is by its nature eccentric: no two are ever alike, unless of course you get your soup from cans.”
Soups are warming and comforting, and most of the time almost effortless. Simply collect all your ingredients and simmer them together on the stove, slowly warming up your kitchen with the steam rising from the pot. Ladle a hearty serving into a bowl and grab a spoon, and the instantly comforting effects begin even before your first sip: Your fingers, wrapped around the sides, start to forget the chill they experienced outdoors and ease your body into a cozy warmth.
These affordable, filling dishes are a perfect example of cucina povera, Italy’s peasant cooking tradition. A bunch of seasonal vegetables, legumes, or stale bread are stretched into satisfying dishes meant to feed a crowd.
Soups thrive on leftovers, too, as they can turn a scant cup of lentils, a wedge of roasted butternut squash, and a few cups of good homemade stock into a full dish.
Making a pot of soup is relaxing, the best way to end a day: a quiet simmering, a hypnotic stir, a velvety texture, each spoonful warming you from the inside and bringing back childhood memories. Soups, for me, are the quintessential autumn food, a comfort for the stomach and the soul.
Today, I’m sharing three Tuscan recipes that I welcome back into my kitchen as soon as autumn arrives. There’s an onion soup from Renaissance Florence; a rustic and hearty potato, porcini, and chestnut soup from the mountains; and an effortless chickpea and chard soup from the countryside. Choose your favorite way to embrace this season of soups.