Cooking With Local Chefs

Cooking with Chef Gaetano Cannata | Soup is the best comfort food

Soup. To me, the very sound of the word evokes feelings of warmth, comfort and security. Growing up, every Monday evening for as long as I can remember, my mother prepared a delightful and satisfying soup. On a cold fall or winter night I'd return home from school tired, cold and hungry. Just the smell of soup on my mother's stove melted my anxieties away and had the ability to warm me up before it even touched my lips. As the week went on the meals became more complex and heavier until finally ending up on Sunday afternoon with a meal of almost mythical proportion.

It made sense to start the week on Monday with a simple, yet hearty and comforting meal.

The beauty of soups is that as far as equipment is concerned for the most part you don't need much more than a knife to chop, a pot to cook it in, and a bowl for eating.

Soups can be as simple as a clear Japanese miso or as complex and filling as a French bouillabaisse. In this age of food allergies and personalized diets, regardless of one's culinary preferences there is a soup for everyone. Soups can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. Soups can be a meal in themselves, a vegetarian's delight or perfect for someone on a limited or health conscious diet.

On a cold winter's night at my home as a child, this was one of the simplest, yet one of my favorite soups ever. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Cannellini bean soup with radicchio and pancetta

1 pound of cannellini beans or navy beans soaked overnight

4 quarts of water or homemade chicken stock. (A chicken soup

based can be used if stock is not available)

1/4 cup of very good extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion diced fine

4-5 thin slices of pancetta, chopped fine

1 head of radicchio chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups of cooked pasta

Fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Sautee the onion and pancetta in half the olive oil on a medium flame for 10 minutes till the onion is soft and sweet and the pancetta is crispy. Add the radicchio and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the meantime, drain the soaked beans and cook them for about 45 minutes in the broth. Deglaze the pan with the radicchio with some of the broth and add to soup pot and cook for another 20 minutes or until the beans are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the pasta to the individual bowls top with the grated cheese and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Enjoy!

Chef Gaetano Cannata, owner of Ortygia Restaurant, can be reached at