Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup

By • December 2, 2011 • 231 Comments

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Author Notes: This soup might seem plain, but trust us. Paul Bertolli, who was at the helm of Chez Panisse and Oliveto for over 20 years, knows exactly how to make a vegetable become the best it can be. This recipe comes from Cooking by Hand, Bertolli's IACP award-winning book of recipes and essays, and makes for a soup that's delicate, sweet, and smooth as a flannel scarf.Genius Recipes

Serves 8

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion (6 ounces), sliced thin
  • 1 head very fresh cauliflower (about 1-1/2 pounds), broken into florets
  • Salt, to taste
  • 5 1/2 cups water, divided
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Warm the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Sweat the onion in the olive oil over low heat without letting it brown for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the cauliflower, salt to taste, and 1/2 cup water. Raise the heat slightly, cover the pot tightly and stew the cauliflower for 15 to 18 minutes, or until tender. Then add another 4 1/2 cups hot water, bring to a low simmer and cook an additional 20 minutes uncovered.
  3. Working in batches, purée the soup in a blender to a very smooth, creamy consistency. Let the soup stand for 20 minutes. In this time it will thicken slightly.
  4. Thin the soup with 1/2 cup hot water. Reheat the soup. Serve hot, drizzled with a thin stream of extra-virgin olive oil and freshly ground black pepper.
Jump to Comments (231)

Comments (231) Questions (9)

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5 months ago claire morda

Instead of pepper, add some dukkah. Delicious!

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5 months ago Mary

I have made this soup @ least 1 a week sometimes more. Hands down my favorite soup ever. Have turned so many people on to this recipe too. I use boxed Safeway Organic Chicken Broth in place of the water and also throw in a shallot w/ the onion.

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6 months ago RavensFeast

It's so tempting to pair another ingredient or spice with a basic pureed vegetable soup, but in the case of cauliflower, it doesn't get better than this - a pure, simple, single ingredient shining. I make this recipe over and over again, year-round. Using great olive oil elevates it. I converted to a Vita-Mix blender a while back and now it's even better - silky and almost decadent. Like cauliflower in a sexy slip.

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7 months ago Ukes

I tried this the other night and my husband and I loved it! Not bland at all - it's about the subtle flavors of the cauliflower. I had a 3lb head of cauliflower so baked the other half with olive oil, salt and pepper, and instead of topping the soup with fresh cracked pepper, I topped it with the baked florets and it was delicious!

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7 months ago Loredona

Are the best! Not sure how to edit a comment?

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7 months ago Loredona

I just made this soup and it was delicious. Sometimes the simplest things in life our the best!

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7 months ago Nyborg

This is an exquisite soup. Worked beautifully.

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7 months ago Douglas

a lovely soup indeed. I am not a big an of cauliflower yet this has a particularly lovely flavor

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7 months ago preppy

Oh I love the cauliflower soup. We were talking about using broccoli instead of cauliflower.

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7 months ago CookedGoose

Of course you should add whatever you want, but to me, the simplicity of this soup makes it special, though I do use half chicken broth in mine. I'd suggest giving the soup another try with the freshest cauliflower you can find, using at least half chicken broth, and allowing a half-hour for the flavor to develop. The lemon and oil are wonderful additions.

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7 months ago Celeste

Yes… I love the recipe as is and continue to make it as is. I'm just experimenting with broccoli to have MORE soup.

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7 months ago Celeste

Good idea(s). Will try that. THANKS!!! Cheese makes everything better anyway!!!

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7 months ago preppy

Maybe use chicken broth instead of water. I added garlic to the cauliflower soup. If still bland add cheese at end???

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7 months ago Celeste

OK, thanks. I'm still curious tho, so maybe if I use extra brocc, it might be less bland? Might try. And I totally agree that the cauliflower is sooo good. This is definitely my go-to recipe for soup.

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7 months ago preppy

It was just not good. Bland. Maybe I'm just use to broccoli soup with cheese. However, the cauliflower was soo good! Go figure.

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7 months ago Celeste

Preppy… Can you share what happened that made it not good?

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7 months ago preppy

I tried with broccoli and it was not good!

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7 months ago Celeste

Hey… Has anyone tried this amazing recipe with broccoli instead? Wondering if it will work as well as (or differently than) the cauliflower (which I totally love).

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7 months ago Rhetorical

I made this for the first time last night and it's so good. I can't believe how much flavor those few ingredients created. Tried it plain, with olive oil, and then some pesto. Awesome.

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7 months ago CookedGoose

I've made this about ten times so far, using 1/2 chicken stock and 1/2 water, and adding all of the liquid at once. It's been amazing -- until today. The batch I made today is good, but it just didn't quite come together the way it usually does. We made croutons for the top, and drizzled lemon juice and olive oil on the top, and it's still good, just not amazing. I will continue to make this soup though, because it is filling, soothing and reasonably healthy.

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8 months ago Allyson Quon

What a fantastic soup. I used chicken stock vs. water to make it a bit richer in flavor but I think it was would have been just fine with water as the recipe indicated. The key step is the sweating of the onions and not having it brown too dark. I definitely will make this recipe again.