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Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup)

By • March 5, 2014 • 22 Comments

If you're like us, you look to the seasons for what to cook. Get to the market, and we'll show you what to do with your haul.

Today: Meet Spain's fluffy, pungent sopa de ajo, a peasant soup that will carry you through the last stretches of winter. 

Garlic Soup on Food52

When winter persists, shooing us back towards our pantries and away from the outside world, we turn to peasant food: to beans, to porridge, to pasta. To cabbage, and potatoes, and cabbage and potatoes. To warm things that make the gnarliest of roots palatable and soften our hard, icy souls.

But you cannot look at another brassica. You've maxed out all of the combinations and permutations of cans in your cupboards. Your wooden spoon is permanently stained from Marcella's red sauce. You've become a resentful hybrid of an Italian nonna and a Polish babcia, and you're looking for a reincarnation, but spring isn't coming anytime soon.

To solve this problem, I suggest that you traipse through France, over some mountains, and into Spain, where abuelas everywhere are waiting for you with large, warming bowls of sopa de ajo. Garlic soup. Which sounds about as bare-bones and are-you-kidding-me as it gets, but is also alchemical in its transformation of ingredients. It is magic.

Sopa de Ajo on Food52

Grandmothers tend to receive most of the credit for the brilliance of peasant food, but sopa de ajo is more like an old Spanish man in its identity: It starts out very brash, with the biggest garlic cloves you've got, the stalest bread you can find, the smokiest paprika. It is yelling in public, cigarette in hand, gesticulating wildly. It is covered in olive oil. Its smell is pungent. 

But, like even the roughest of codgers, this soup holds teddy bear potential. With a bit of coaxing, it relaxes and becomes soft. Add water and the bread puffs up, almost disintegrating, spreading all the flavor it has adopted back into its environs. 

Spaniards use meat or poultry stock here, but I abstain from both, and instead use salty, bay leaf-infused water. The stock in your freezer is likely dwindling; I won't ask you to make more.

After a brief simmer, your pot will be full of wisps of bread, swimming in a broth tinted red from paprika and swirled, lava lamp-style, with olive oil. And then you will whisk in beaten eggs to turn everything fluffy and cloud-like, creating a cosmos of garlic specks and egg ribbons and bread mush. This will not remind you of the pantry soups that you've tired of; it creates and inhabits a genre all its own, revolutionary in its ability to comfort.

Sopa de Ajo on Food52

So suck it, winter. You stay as long as you like. We'll be over here, eating garlic soup while abuela dances the Flamenco.

Sopa de Ajo (Garlic Soup)

Serves 6

2 generous tablespoons olive oil
8 large cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cubed, stale bread, crusts removed
1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
6 cups water
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
4 bay leaves (fresh ones are ideal, but dried is fine, too)
3 eggs, beaten well

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Eric Moran

Jump to Comments (22)

Tags: garlic, soup, peasant food, spain, spanish food, sopa, vegetarian

Comments (22)

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Stringio

5 months ago Alex Txn

It looks real good and I do love garlic.
Going to make it soon,and will post the result.

Stringio

5 months ago Paloma Cabero

It's a winter delicious recipe, typical from Madrid and Castilla in general, not flamenco area;). It remembers me my granny's home, and some cold Christmas in Madrid, when i was a child. Today my son loves it.

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5 months ago e.l.

How does this soup reheat? Does it store at all?

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5 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

It doesn't reheat or store very well, since you've got so much soggy bread and egg going on. If you wanted to make two batches, I'd consider making it without the whisked egg and instead adding soft-boiled or poached eggs when you serve.

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5 months ago LauriL

Thank you for conveying my feeling to winter!!! I have to say tho that I tend to try many more new recipes when I'm snowed in....so yay for that. And, as I write how wonderful this one sounds there are more fluffy flakes falling!! Definitely will try this one and close my eyes while I transport myself to sunny places. Oh and I always find myself smiling while reading your submissions!! Thanks!

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5 months ago A.

Only half a tsp of smoked paprika? That seems rather tame.

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5 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Add more if you like! Go ahead and get crazy with your soup.

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5 months ago mbbeard

Aptly written! One of my fondest memories of Spain, back in the early 80's, was a warm bowl of garlic soup dining el fresco near Malaga. YUM!

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5 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Sounds lovely!

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5 months ago Daniel

Great recipe! I grew up enjoying it :-)
http://dinnerwithdaniel...

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5 months ago Judy

I meant to be notified if there was a comment

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5 months ago Judy

Do I leave the garlic cloves whole? Smash them? Slice them?

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5 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Sorry for not clarifying! The garlic should be minced. I've updated this in the recipe.

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5 months ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

SUCK IT WINTER!!!!!
and yum, on the to-try list it goes

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5 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Yay! Let me know how it turns out. Enjoy your Texas weather, also.

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5 months ago Marturello

I have made garlic soup before but never used smoked paprika, though a half teaspoon doesn't seem like enough to overpower the dish. I like the addition of the egg. Nice touch.
Haven't made garlic soup this winter, and it definitely has been a winter that deserves/requires a dish like this. I will try your recipe, Marian.

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5 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Yes, a little goes a long way, especially with the good stuff! I've seen recipes that use more, but I find it can take over the rest of the ingredients.

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5 months ago petitbleu

I love sopa de ajo so much! I usually put an egg on it to make it a meal.

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5 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Yes, a lot of the recipes I've seen online add a poached or soft-boiled egg at the end, but in Spain I always ate it egg-drop style -- both ways are great!

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5 months ago Sarah Jampel

Sarah is Food52's assistant editor.

This is going straight to the top of my list of recipes to make over my spring vacation.

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5 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is Food52's Associate Editor.

Yay! And then hopefully after that it will get warm again. (Maybe??)

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4 months ago Lourdes

This is a great soup my grandmother used to make it all the, you need good crusty bread and good quality olive oil.