Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup

By • December 2, 2011 • 245 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 (245)

Comments (245) Questions (10)

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3 days ago HaylesYeah

The soup is so perfect and so easy it's become a weeknight staple. Plus it's been my go-to recipe for my friends with babies (and even they are fans too). I've only ever added a whips of truffle oil or black maldon salt to garnish at the end because I'm too paranoid to muss up perfection. But I may try to sub the water for homemade stock next week. Folks who've done this, what's your gauge?

Stringio

22 days ago chichichicken

Such a delicate and beautiful soup! I cooked the onion slices in coconut oil and pork lard and halfway through I added chopped garlics and some pine nuts. I also used store-bought chicken broth (Maggi to be exact). The end result was silky, nutty, and delicious soup. Next time I'll try with homemade homemade vegetable stock or dashi.

Stringio

about 1 month ago Ralph Taylor

Substituted low sodium chiken broth for the water and also added a little heavy cream for richness. Drizzled a little Extra Virgin Olive oil and a dollop of Creme Fraiche. Also added seasoned croutons. Was trying (successfully) to duplicate a meal I had in Aubeterre, France.

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about 1 month ago reneej

I'm not sure how to remove myself from getting an email every time anyone comments on this thread.
Any ideas?

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about 1 month ago emliza

I love this soup! I have it with grilled portobello mushrooms - fabulous.

Stringio

about 1 month ago Madelaine Linebarger

I have not made this soup yet but I'm thinking a drizzle of white truffle olive oil sounds lovely. Now I'm going to have to go out and buy some tomorrow!

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about 1 month ago Tbird

Well here's a first. A negative review. Followed directions exactly, and got a bland soup. I've added lots of salt and pepper to give it some flavor. Bummed, as I was expecting a great soup. Nancy McK... I'm in agreement with you. I think Chicken Stock would have been better, but not sure if that would have done it. Oh well, can't win em all and it was a low cost investment.

Now... what to feed my kids, because they're still hungry!! :)

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about 1 month ago maggie rogers

I am making this soup again because it is so good. I used all chicken broth instead of water and toward the end threw in a rind of Parmesan cheese. Delicious!

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about 1 month ago Nyborg

I made this soup again last week, for about the fourth time since first finding the recipe. It was incredibly delicious. Used fresh cauliflower from the greenmarket. Otherwise followed the recipe to the letter. Thanks again for the recipe!

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about 1 month ago Nancy Mck

I think it's hilarious that you keep printing this recipe. I made it once and thought it was bland and boring. Everyone kept raving so I made it again. And guess what? It's bland and boring.

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2 months ago Kinnari

This soup was absolutely delicious. I made a few modifications because I don't have enough cauliflower, but it turned out great. To start, I added 2 garlic cloves halfway through cooking the onions. I used a purple cauliflower and two small heads of super sweet corn. IT was perfect combination; corn and cauliflower. For a small kick, I added a pinch of cayenne and 1 tsp. of crushed red pepper!

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2 months ago Kashap

Just made this soup. Based on the comments think it will be perfect for my friend who just had quite major surgery that included her abdomen and whom I'll be taking care of when she comes home from the hospital. Can this soup be frozen and then reheated?? Many thanks, K.

Miglore

2 months ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Executive Editor of Food52

I haven't tried it myself, but I'm pretty certain freezing and reheating would be just fine. So glad you liked it -- hope your friend does too.

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8 months ago claire morda

Instead of pepper, add some dukkah. Delicious!

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8 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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9 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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9 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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9 months ago Loredona

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

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9 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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9 months ago Nyborg

This is an exquisite soup. Worked beautifully.

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10 months ago Douglas

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