Mushroom and Potato Soup
Minestra di Funghi e Patate

serves: 8 servings

I love mushrooms, and this is my favorite soup. You can use any mushrooms you have available. In fact, the more kinds of mushrooms you use, the more complex the flavor. I know you will be making this recipe often. To add a new twist, try replacing the barley with long grain rice, but add it for just the last ten minutes of cooking. Instead of carrots, you can also grate a hard squash, like butternut or acorn.

ingredients
10 cups chicken stock, hot or canned low-sodium chicken or beef broth
½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms, chopped
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch cubes
2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded
1 cup butternut squash , coarsely grated peeled
salt
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons shallots, chopped
1 pound fresh wild mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 cup barley, rinsed and drained
½ cup Italian parsley, chopped
¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated

directions


Pour one cup of the hot stock over the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl. Let stand until the porcini are softened, about 20 minutes. Drain the porcini, straining the soaking liquid through a coffee filter or a sieve lined with a double thickness of cheesecloth. Combine the soaking liquid with the remaining stock. Rinse the soaked mushrooms thoroughly to remove any sand and grit. Drain them well and chop finely.

In a deep, heavy 4 to 5-quart pot heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Most likely, the potatoes will stick, that is fine. Adjust the level of heat to prevent the bits of potato that stick from getting too dark. Stir in the carrots and squash. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the carrots are softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Season lightly with salt.

Add tomato paste and stir to coat the vegetables. Add hot stock, bay leaves and chopped porcini mushrooms. Bring to a boil, scraping up the bits of potato that stick to the pot. Adjust the level of heat to a simmer and season the soup lightly with salt and pepper. Cover the pot and simmer until the potatoes begin to fall apart, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the sliced fresh mushrooms, sprinkle them with salt and pepper and cook until all the mushroom water has evaporated, about 6 minutes. Scrape the contents of the skillet into soup. Continue simmering 30 minutes, stirring and skimming occasionally.

Stir the barley into the soup. Cook, stirring often to prevent the barley from scorching, until the barley is tender, about 30 minutes.

Remove bay leaves. Stir the parsley into the soup and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve in warm soup bowls, sprinkled with the grated cheese.