With yet another snowstorm getting underway here, it seemed like a good day to make this simple and nourishing soup. Last week, I tasted it as prepared by Fabio Viviani, the charming Italian guy from Top Chef.
He was in New York City doing a demonstration for Legends from Europe, representing some pure, natural food products from Italy, including Proscuitto di Parma, Prosciutto di San Daniele, Montasio and Grana Padano cheeses.
Grana Padano is sometimes called “poor man’s Parmigiano Reggiano,” which seems a little unfair. I think it’s just as delicious. And possibly because it’s not as well known outside of Italy, I find it tends to have a more friendly price tag. It’s made in the Po Valley region in northeastern Italy from raw cow’s milk and aged between 9 and 24 months. The cheese develops a rich flavor and granular texture that I absolutely love, with a slightly milder and less salty taste than Parmigiano.
My friend Janelle wrote a more informative post comparing Grano Padano and Parmigiano Reggiano, if you’d like to go deeper.
This recipe has only a handful of ingredients, but it tastes rich and satisfying, with a pure taste of cauliflower and the delicate onion flavor of leeks.
creamy cauliflower and grana padano soup
Yield 4-6 servings
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving
- 2 leeks, white and light green parts chopped
- 1 large cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into florets
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 5 cups water
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup grated Grana Padano cheese, or Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- Pour the oil into a 4 or 5 quart saucepan. Place over medium low heat and add the leeks. Cover the pan and cook until the leeks become meltingly tender without coloring, stirring a few times, about 5 minutes.
- Add cauliflower to the pan along with the chili flakes, water and salt. Bring to a simmer. Cook 20 - 25 minutes, until cauliflower is soft. Remove from heat and let cool 15 minutes.
- Stir in half of the cheese and puree the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender until very smooth.
- Sprinkle with parsley and additional cheese before serving, and drizzle olive oil over each serving.