Soups & Chilis

Here’s a new favorite soup, adapted liberally from this America’s Test Kitchen video. To serve, I garnish with a combination of finely chopped bacon and a blend of finely chopped herbs in Meyer lemon olive oil from Seven Barrels.

adapted liberally from America’s Test Kitchen

extra virgin olive oil to coat the bottom of your pot
1/2 a large sweet onion, diced
1 rib celery, chopped a bit finer than the onion
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cans small white beans or canellini beans (I used Goya)
2 tablespoons Pecorino Romano, grated
1/2 a lemon, squeezed
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
sprigs of fresh thyme
2 tablespoons salted butter

Herb oil
Maybe 1/4 cup or so (I don’t measure) of Meyer lemon olive oil
Handful of fresh parsley
A few sprigs of fresh rosemary
Chop very fine, add to lemon olive oil. Let sit so the flavors meld.

2 or 3 pieces of your favorite bacon, cooked and diced fine

Coat a large stockpot with extra virgin olive oil, burner on medium heat. Add celery and onions. Cook 6 to 8 minutes, till softened and onions are translucent.

Next, add thyme, sliced garlic and cayenne. Cook till fragrant, about a minute or so.

Add two cans of beans and their liquid. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook 6 to 8 minutes more.

Remove thyme. Add Pecorino Romano. Remove from heat; blend for 2 minutes with an immersion (stick) blender. Yes, your arm and/or finger will get tired from blending. Weird. No worries, the feeling goes away!

Add 2 tablespoons salted butter and 1 cup chicken broth. Blend one more minute.

Next, whisk in 1 more cup of chicken broth. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in freshly squeezed lemon juice.

To serve, garnish with a drizzle of herb oil and a tasty row of chopped bacon. Enjoy!



Though temperatures reached above 50 degrees today, soup remains the perfect seasonal supper. For one that eats like a meal, complete with loads of fresh vegetables, you can’t go wrong with creamy chicken noodle. ♫ What do I care how much it may storm? I’ve gotta this soup to keep me warm. ♫ With much respect, and sincere apologies, to Dean Martin.

 cups dry medium egg noodles
1.25 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in bite-sized chunks
Olive oil to coat the bottom of your pot
1 large sweet onion
3 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
handful of mushrooms (about 6), sliced
generous handful of baby spinach
1 box Kitchen Basics chicken stock (32 oz.)
1 sprig rosemary
a few sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
1 1/4 teaspoons Kosher salt
black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
fresh parsley to garnish

Coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil–turn to medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery. Saute till tender and you start to build some color at the bottom of the pan, about 15 minutes, then add garlic and saute a minute longer.

Meantime, bring a pot of water to boil to cook the noodles. Ideally, the noodles will be finished cooking by the time you’ve finished the soup.

Back to the soup: add mushrooms, continue cooking and stirring for the next 5 minutes. Add chicken and salt; saute about 7 minutes. Add chicken broth, bay leaves and season with pepper to taste. Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer.

In a separate medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, add flour and cook, stirring constantly till flour has browned a bit, about 1 1/2 minutes. While whisking, slowly add in milk. Then whisk in cream, stirring constantly. Remove from heat when it begins to bubble

Remove thyme and bay leaves from soup. Pour milk/cream/flour mixture into soup; add spinach just to wilt. Add cooked noodles. Garnish each bowl with fresh parsley. Stay toasty and enjoy!



Whaddya get when you cross American chop suey with pasta e fagioli? Italian-American chop suey! No ground beef here, we’re talking sausage with San Marzanos,  a bell pepper plus some Italian long hots for heat, white beans, rosemary, thyme, red wine and a dollop of ricotta on top to make it nice-nice. ’tis the season for something warming, so andiamo–let’s go!


2 cans cannellini beans (small white beans are also fine), rinsed and drained
1/2 pound pasta (I love Sclafani double elbows a.k.a. cellentani)
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound Italian sausage (’round here, I love Longhini)
1 red bell pepper
2 Italian long hot peppers
1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes (Cento is my brand of choice–buy whole ones and crush them between your fingers like the skulls of your enemies, HA HA HA!)
1/2 the 28 oz. can water, 1/4 can red wine
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce (such as Tuttorosso)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
pepper to taste
1 sprig fresh rosemary
a handful of sprigs of fresh thyme
whole milk ricotta to dollop on top of each bowl you serve

In a large pot, saute onion in olive oil with crushed red pepper flakes, rosemary and thyme till onions are golden. Add garlic. Add sausage, breaking up into small pieces as it cooks. *While you’ve got this going, bring a separate pot of water to a boil to cook your pasta.* Add peppers as the sausage is cooking. When sausage is completely cooked, crush each tomato between your fingers and add all the liquid from the can. Fill this can halfway with water and another quarter of the way with red wine. Add to pot along with the small can of tomato sauce, salt and pepper. Simmer 15 minutes or so. Add beans to warm, then add cooked pasta. Serve with a generous spoonful of ricotta and Pecorino Romano, if you like. Fresh parsley is always nice, too.

Found a cure for the colder weather right heah, amici–I promise this! Stay toasty!


It’s finally feeling like fall–a perfect time for soupin’ it up in the kitchen, and turning on the oven to roast tomatoes. All that sound good? Lasagna soup might be just what the weatherman ordered! I wonder if cousin Gil Simmons is listening?!

This recipe has all the delicious flavors of lasagna without being overly cheesy. Not that there’s anything wrong with being cheesy (HA HA, please, look who’s talking). But it’s plenty rich and hearty without ricotta or mozzarella. See if you agree!


1 pint grape tomatoes
olive oil to coat the bottom of a large roasting pan
1 large sweet onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 cup vodka
1 pound sausage (patties, or casings removed from links) CT folks, I love Longhini!
1 red bell pepper, diced
5 oz. mushrooms (I used baby bella), sliced
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, if you have it
1 box (32 oz.) chicken stock (my fave is Kitchen Basics)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup flour
1/2 pound lasagna noodles, broken (note: I found frozen lasagna noodles from Durante’s Pasta of West Haven at Shop Rite in Wallingford–SCORE!)
1 bag (6 oz.) baby spinach
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
fresh basil to garnish (optional), parsley’s always nice, too

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Drizzle olive oil to coat 9 x 13″ baking dish. Roll the tomatoes around in the olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Gently smash the garlic cloves with the side of your knife and add to baking dish. Make sure all the tomatoes are in an even layer. Roast in oven 10 minutes, then shake and put them back in for 10 minutes more. Then shake again and back to the oven 10 more for total of 30 minutes.

Add 1/4 cup vodka after you remove the pan from the oven. Sizzle-sizzle!

Watch the asterisks (*) for where we need to multitask a bit. 🙂

In a stock pot, cook sausage over medium heat, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. Add pepper, mushrooms and thyme; cook 5-6 minutes. Add tomatoes/onions/garlic/vodka and chicken broth and simmer for 5 minutes. Add broken lasagna noodles, and bring to low boil. *Cook for 10-12 minutes (follow package instructions as a guide) or until the noodles are tender. Add spinach and cook for about a minute while stirring.

*While the noodles are cooking, in a separate smaller saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Whisk in 1/4 cup flour and continue cooking for 1 minute; whisking constantly. The butter/flour mixture should be bubbling. Slowly whisk in milk/cream until it’s smooth and thickened; about 3-5 minutes. Turn off heat and slowly whisk in Romano cheese. Once the mixture is creamy and the cheese has melted, slowly whisk into soup.

Now it’s time to serve. Garnish with basil or parsley and mangia, mangia! Serves four to six people, depending how hungry your people are. 🙂 Reheats very nicely, too.

roasted butternut bisque with sourdough toast and fresh chive chevre

Falling temps, falling leaves–what better time of year to roast something delicious to warm your bones and your home? I’ve got just the thing. Let’s grab some butternut squash and get cookin’!


2 butternut squash (4 pounds total), halved, seeded, cut in cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 medium-large sweet onion
3 carrots
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon additional Kosher salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Whisk together olive oil, maple syrup, smoked paprika, cinnamon, 1 teaspoon Kosher salt–toss squash to coat.

Spread out evenly over a roasting pan or baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes, then toss and return to the oven for 15 minutes more.

Melt butter in a large stock pot over medium heat, add carrots and onion, cook about 7 to 10 minutes till tender. Add chicken stock, squash, black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon more Kosher salt, bring to a boil. Remove from heat, add cream and nutmeg, blend with an immersion blender.

butternut squash stick blender

Enjoy a taste of fall!


I don’t know about you, but I love soup any time of year–even summer. This spicy blend of flavors, colors and textures is easy to throw together. It gets its creamy consistency from simply blending some of the chickpeas and broth.

For a more filling meal, you can make some rice and line the bottom of your bowl with it. And the rice contrasts nicely with the heat from the jalapeño and spices.


olive oil to coat the bottom of a stock pot
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 bell pepper (orange, red or yellow), diced
1 jalapeño, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 cups chicken stock
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 tablespoon curry powder: I used a combination of my curry powders–1 teaspoon garam masala, 1 teaspoon hot curry powder, 1 teaspoon vindaloo
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in large stockpot over medium heat. Add onions. Saute about 8-10 minutes, till they become translucent. Add bell pepper, jalapeño, garlic and spices. Saute another minute. Add chickpeas, tomatoes, stock, coconut milk and salt.

Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove two or three ladles of vegetables–more or less, depending how chunky you’d like your soup to be. Now, take a stick blender and buzz up what’s left in the pan. It’ll give the soup a bisque-y consistency that contrasts nicely with the vegetables you set aside, then stir back in.

Serve over rice or on its own in a bowl. You can garnish with fresh parsley or cilantro if you like. And I hope you like! 🙂 Wishing you hot fun in the summertime, either way. Happy 4th of July weekend, amici!


Twenty years ago, I tried beer cheese soup for the first time at the 391st Bomb Group in West Palm Beach, Florida. Since then, I’ve tried it other places. But there’s something about the original I wanted to try to replicate.

Fast forward fifteen years, I thought I’d found the recipe in an old article from the Sun Sentinel. But all I could see was another fan looking for the recipe. I posted the link on a food site I frequent and said if anyone did have the original recipe, I’d be grateful to have it.

Four years later, someone responded to my inquiry and let me know the recipe was right there in the article–on a second page I hadn’t seen. Whattafind! I felt a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

You've always had the power

So with this week’s cooler temperatures, I strolled Memory Lane and made the soup. I was about to follow the original recipe to the letter till I realized the chicken bouillon had MSG. I would try it again with non-MSG bouillon, but what I riffed was really excellent! It’s a little hotter and has that extra something coarse ground mustard can bring to a creamy soup like this. Here’s what I did.

adapted from the 391st Bomb Group’s original recipe

4 slices bacon, diced
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
4 cups whole milk
2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Tabasco Frank’s Red Hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 tablespoon coarse ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pound Velveeta cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
16 ounces light beer poured into a 2-cup measure to eliminate some of the foam (I used Coors, a.k.a. Colorado Kool-Aid)

In a skillet, cook the bacon and onions over medium heat, stirring, about 5-10 minutes or until the bacon is crisp and the onions are soft and lightly browned. Set aside.

I didn’t use a double boiler or a thermometer as indicated in the original recipe. Cubed Velveeta magically melts into warm liquid like nobody’s business. So, into a large stockpot on medium heat, add 4 cups milk, 2 cups chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce, Frank’s Red Hot, cayenne, mustard, sriracha, Velveeta and the bacon and onions. At this point, you can add just one cup of the beer. Set the rest of the beer aside.

Meanwhile, whisk the cornstarch into the remaining 1 cup beer. When the cheese has completely melted into the liquid, stir the beer/cornstarch mixture. Whisk and cook until the contents thicken.

Next, strain out the bacon and onions. Garnish with parsley, chives, paprika or popcorn. I topped mine with (new to me) Buffalo Cheddar Smartfood. Laugh if you must, but try it first. I think the soup tasted even better the next day.


While we’re hanging out on Memory Lane, here is 20-something me outside the 391st Bomb Group. Cheers and enjoy your soup!

I missed Cinco de Mayo, but it’s as good time a time as any to share my recipe for taco soup. It’s what you get when you cross tacos with black bean soup. I really enjoy it and hope you will, too.

olive oil to coat the bottom of your pan
1 pound ground chicken or pork
1/2 a large sweet onion
1 teaspoon adobo seasoning
2 15-oz. cans of beans, drained in rinsed (1 black, 1 white or pink)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeño, chopped
1 14.5 oz. can fire-roasted tomatoes
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup of your favorite salsa (I love Frontera’s chipotle)
1 cup beer
1 cup water
1 tablespoon chili powder (or my way: 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder, 1 teaspoon chipotle powder)
1 teaspoon epazote
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1/2 lime, squeezed (optional)

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until golden, about 5-6 minutes. Add ground pork or chicken, sprinkle with adobo, breaking the meat into small pieces as you cook it. Add beans, both peppers, fire-roasted tomatoes, tomato sauce, salsa, beer, water, spices and salt. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the corn at the end–just for maybe 5 minutes or so. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice if you like.

Garnish with any or all of the following for a true taco in a bowl:
fresh cilantro
diced grape tomatoes
chopped green onion
sour cream
crumbled tortilla chips

It makes plenty and freezes beautifully, so you can enjoy it now and later. Though for now, the closest I’ll get to Mexico again anytime soon will be musically with JT. Wanna come with? 😀



My mom called a bit ago with some feedback that made my whole day. Jimmy said the pasta fazool I sent over was just like his mom used to make. WOW!

You’d hafta know Jimmy to understand the depth of that compliment. Jimmy is 82–an old school, hardcore, 100% Sicilian, no bullshit kinda guy. He fought in Korea. He can build things, fix things, has traveled all over the world. He’ll tell you like it is and then some.

Despite his gruff exterior, he’s also the kind of guy who puts out a special dish of seeds for “his” chipmunks in my mom’s driveway and used to take my dog out for hot dogs on the Pike. He also makes killer hot peppers and sends them to me. And chicken soup. Sometimes he even puts Hershey kisses in my containers when he returns them.

Now, I’ve had Henry Hill’s cookbook on my coffee table since this summer: The Wiseguy Cookbook–my favorite recipes from my life as a goodfella to cooking on the run. Goodfellas is one of my favorite movies of all time. Henry weaves all sorts of tales of his crimes and general mischief throughout the recipes. I had been leafing through it on and off and noticed his pasta fazool called for both beef broth and chicken broth. Hmm. Interesting. I’ll hafta try that sometime.

I rarely follow a recipe to the letter, but thought it would be cool to make Henry’s recipe as written. I started prepping the vegetables and, as usual, I drained and rinsed the beans. Then I read the recipe more closely. “Stir in beans and their juice…” Henry! WTF?! I say that with respect, man. I’ve heard you speak and know you and the F-word were well-acquainted. Why would you do that?

Oh, well. I did want to do this your way, but not with all the glop and preservatives from the can, so I’ll just add more liquid. Your recipe called for 4 cups of chicken broth, 2 cups of beef–and the dreaded “bean juice.” I changed that to 3 cups of beef broth, 2 cups of chicken, 2 cups of water and 1 cup of dry white wine.

So here we are–Henry Hill and yours truly in the kitchen. It’s BYOO-dee-full! And more, much more than this, I did it “My Way.” Let’s do this thinG–for Jimmy!

from the recipe files of Henry Hill and Hope Simmons

And you’ve gotta know Henry must have said it just the way I typed it phonetically above, though, yes, it’s pasta e fagiole. Trust me, no one says it that way ’round heah.

2 slices slab bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces (local amici, PLEASE go to Meadow Meat)
1 large sweet onion, diced
8 garlic cloves, pressed
1-2 large stalks celery, sliced thin
1-2 large carrots, peeled and crinkle-cut (you know!)
2 15-oz. cans small white beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups beef broth
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Pecorino Romano (1/4 to 1/2 cup)
1 cup uncooked small pasta (I used Sclafani cavatelli)
Freshly ground black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper

I used a Dutch oven, but you could use a large pot. Add bacon, cook over medium to low heat, stirring (do not brown). Add onion and cook, stirring 5 minutes until translucent. Add garlic, celery and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, stirring.

Raise heat to medium. Stir in beans, beef and chicken broth, water, wine, bay leaf and rosemary. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add pasta, black pepper and cayenne. Cook according to the package directions for the pasta you choose, till pasta is al dente. Stir in cheese.

Serve to your friends and family. And keep smilin’! CENT’ANN’!

Janey and Jimmy (August 2011)

Janey and Jimmy (August 2011)

And now, I must close with the correct musical accompaniment.

There’s nothing like a snowstorm to send many of us (who, me?) straight to the kitchen. I crossed my roasted tomato vodka sauce recipe with Tyler Florence’s soup recipe and am happy to share the result with you. It’s rich, delicious and warms up the house like nobody’s business. Make sure you have some nice bread on hand (plain or to grill with cheese) and let’s get cookin’!


3 pints grape tomatoes
6 gloves garlic, peeled
1 large sweet onion, cut in half, then sliced
Olive oil to coat your baking dish
1 heaping teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup vodka
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons salted butter
3 bay leaves
sprigs of fresh thyme if you have them
zest of one lemon

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Layer the onions, tomatoes and garlic cloves into a large roasting dish. Toss with olive oil and a generous teaspoon of Kosher salt.


Roast for 20 minutes. Use tongs to move everything around, then roast for 10 more minutes. Add vodka to roasting pan after taking them out of the oven.


Transfer everything in the roasting pan to a large stock pot . Add chicken stock, bay leaves, thyme and butter. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third. Remove bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Season with freshly ground black pepper and add lemon zest.

Remove from heat and blend the soup with an immersion blender until smooth. You can drizzle with a bit of heavy cream when you serve to take this straight over the top, but I promise this soup is super-rich and flavorful on its own. It would be lovely to garnish with fresh basil or parsley. Enjoy with your favorite bread or maybe even a grilled cheese. Stay toasty, amici!

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