Cauliflower and Pear Soup

September 11, 2011
8 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

Around the holidays, my mom often serves soup and sandwiches for a low-key meal the night before she’s serving a larger, more labor-intensive one. I’ve taken this tradition to heart. Not only is soup comforting for traveling guests, it’s also a welcome dish for the cook because it can be prepared in advance.

Inspired by a side dish of cauliflower with pears, sage, and hazelnuts from Andrew Carmellini’s Urban Italian, I took these same flavors and turned them into a fall soup. This soup is all about building layers of flavor -- you start with leeks and shallot, then lightly brown the cauliflower, potato, and pear with sage and thyme before adding chicken stock for a lazy simmer on the stove. You then puree the soup until it’s silky and smooth. I considered finishing the soup with cream or milk but decided it’s lovely without it.

The pear is definitely the secret weapon here -- it adds a subtle sweetness and marries perfectly with the other flavors. A prosciutto panini or simple grilled cheese sandwich makes a perfect accompaniment. Fear not making this soup for the self-avowed cauliflower haters in your family -- it's sure to win them over.

Test Kitchen Notes

Pear and Sherry vinegar are the star ingredients of this comforting autumn soup, adding a crucial hint of sweetness and complexity to what could otherwise be a fairly bland standby. Creamy and light, it fairly calls out improvisational touches, so feel free to play around by adding a crumble of Stilton, a scattering of crisp fried sage leaves, or a dollop of wasabi. - Kukharka —mitschlag

What You'll Need
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 large leek, white and light green parts, chopped
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 1 head cauliflower, green leaves and trunk removed, florets chopped
  • 2 small yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large or 2 small pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 5 leaves fresh sage (or about 2 tsp chopped)
  • 1 T chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 5 to 6 cups chicken stock
  • kosher salt + freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 to 3 tsp sherry vinegar, or to taste (champagne vinegar also works well)
  • 2 T finely chopped chives, for serving
  1. Heat the oil and butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the leek and shallot, and cook until they are soft, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the cauliflower, potato, pear, sage, and thyme, stirring to thoroughly coat them with the oil and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until lightly browned, stirring frequently, another 8 to 10 minutes. You're aiming for a little caramelization around the edges for depth of flavor.
  3. Add 5 cups chicken stock. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, lower heat to just maintain the simmer, and cook until all of the ingredients are very tender, about 30 minutes.
  4. With an immersion blender or regular blender, puree the soup until it’s smooth. If using a blender, you may need to do this step in batches, then return to pot. You're looking for a smooth, velvety texture, so take your time to blend thoroughly. Thin with more chicken stock, if needed, until you reach desired consistency.
  5. Season to taste with vinegar and salt and pepper. Serve in heated bowls, garnished with chives.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Änneken
  • Brooke Clayton-Rudd
    Brooke Clayton-Rudd
  • Carolyn Swayze
    Carolyn Swayze
  • zestandzeal
  • JanetFL

Recipe by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.

44 Reviews

JPepper610 November 28, 2021
Made this yesterday after somebody sent me pears for Christmas. It turned out delicious! I added sherry vinegar at the very end. It definitely rounded out the flavor. I served it with homemade croutons that were baked with olive oil, butter, herbs d’provence, salt and pepper. Delish!!!
EmilyC November 29, 2021
Wonderful! : ) Thanks for trying it and letting me know.
Änneken January 1, 2021
I roasted the veggies in a 425F oven for 35 mins or so first and then added them to the shallot & leeks mixture. Came out beautifully! I didn't detect any thyme or sage flavors in the final product though :( Also, I am a huge lover of all things acidic so I amped up on the sherry vinegar and also squeezed a whole lime over the soup at the end as well. It's even better today, day two. Love it!
Brooke C. July 22, 2020
I over-caramelised the veggies. Tasted lovely but there was no hint of white left.
Carolyn S. October 22, 2019
Simply delicious. I left out the potato (and used less broth), added a shake of cayenne and a small shake of ground clove. I can’t stop eating it!
Marla F. October 7, 2019
This soup is mouthwateringly GOOD! It's our new favorite fall soup. Be sure to take the time to give the ingredients a good, long while to caramelize when sautéing to bring out all those natural sugars. The complex savory-sweet flavor profiles make this so delicious, I can't wait to make this again!
Samantha January 5, 2017
Made this today. Wonderfully creamy with complex undertones. Should b fairly low cal
EmilyC January 5, 2017
Great to hear!! Thanks for trying this and reporting back!
zestandzeal December 30, 2013
I am so in love with cauliflower right now. This sounds delightfully seasonal!
JanetFL September 18, 2013
Love, love, love your recipes! Making this soup this week...but not telling my husband that cauliflower has a starring role!
EmilyC September 19, 2013
Thanks so much Janet for the kind note -- really appreciate it! I commented further down that my husband wasn't wild about the idea (I made the mistake of actually telling him it was a cauliflower soup) but he liked it! A big grilled cheese on the side doesn't hurt! : )
JanetFL September 19, 2013
I just looked at your comment, Emily - and the grilled cheese is a great idea!
EmilyC September 19, 2013
This grilled cheese by mrslarkin is my favorite and would be fantastic with this soup! http://food52.com/recipes/11987-ode-to-the-caseus-cheese-truck
AntoniaJames October 23, 2012
Making this tonight! ;o)
EmilyC October 23, 2012
Oh good! Let me know how it turns out!
Amandadp October 8, 2012
Ooh la la! This is fantastic! I will definitely make this again!
EmilyC October 22, 2012
Just now seeing your comment -- I'm happy you tried and liked it! Thanks for reporting back!
TheWimpyVegetarian September 20, 2011
I love how this sounds!! Saved!
EmilyC September 20, 2011
Thanks ChezSuzanne -- I'd love to know if you try it!
Ms. T. September 14, 2011
I think I just drooled on my keyboard. Can't wait to try this.
EmilyC September 14, 2011
Thanks Ms. T! Leftovers have kept me happy all week.
wssmom September 13, 2011
Cauliflower and pears sound like a remarkable combination; it's still 85 degrees here in New York but temperature is supposed to drop by this weekend, and this will be lunch! Thanks for posting.
EmilyC September 13, 2011
Thanks wssmom! Here's to hoping you get some cooler weather this weekend!
GiGi26 September 13, 2011
I am looking forward to trying your recipe!! It's turning cool here in Michigan so it just might be on the menu later this week!
EmilyC September 13, 2011
Thanks GiGi26! It's cooler here in Virginia, too, and this was our first soup of the season. I hope you try it later this week, and if you do, please report back!
GiGi26 September 20, 2011
It's a FAMILY HIT!! My husband was very sceptical about the combination but loved the results! Granddaughters said it was the best soup ever....high praise from a 12 and 13 year old.
EmilyC September 20, 2011
Your comment made me smile! I'm thrilled you all liked it. Thanks for reporting back!
healthierkitchen September 12, 2011
Wow! I love this - it's just the kind of thing I like. Cant wait to try!
EmilyC September 13, 2011
Thanks healthierkitchen! Let me know if you try it!
SKK September 12, 2011
EmilyC September 12, 2011
Thanks so much SKK!
Midge September 12, 2011
Love it. Pears and cauliflower sound like a brilliant combination.
EmilyC September 12, 2011
Thanks Midge! You know, I thought pear and cauliflower sounded a little odd at first, but was totally won over when I tried them together.
fiveandspice September 12, 2011
Wow! This is so creative and utterly dreamy sounding!
EmilyC September 12, 2011
Thanks so much fiveandspice! Having made the Urban Italian cauliflower and pear dish before, I knew the flavors would work -- but even I was delighted at how well it turned out! Even better when you have a toasty sandwich to dip into it! : )
Bevi September 12, 2011
I love layered soups like these. It sounds perfect for the upcoming cooler days.
EmilyC September 12, 2011
Thanks, Bevi! I agree with you on layered soups. Even the simple step of seasoning as you build each layer of flavor (instead of adding all the seasoning at the end) makes a big difference in the final taste.
Bevi September 13, 2011
Soup is simmering.
EmilyC September 13, 2011
Oh good -- let me know how it turns out!
Bevi September 13, 2011
Delicious! It's hot here today but supposed to have a cold spell coming in, so I wanted to have this ready and waiting. I did not have champagne vinegar, but I added 1t. white wine vinegar, 1t. sherry and 2t. pear brandy. It is hardy yet delicate. I melted some cheese on top - figuring pears, potatoes, and cauliflower all love cheese. Seasoning to taste is the key here because there is so much that can be done according to cook's preference. Thanks so much. Have you frozen this soup with success?
EmilyC September 13, 2011
Hi Bevi -- Thanks so much for reporting back! I'm glad you like it! The melted cheese on top sounds great. (I've had grilled cheese with my soup for two meals this week!) And I completely agree on the seasoning...I kept adding a little salt, a little vinegar, and all of a sudden the flavors just popped. The acid is key. Even though I haven't tried, I think this soup would freeze beautifully, especially since there's no dairy in it.
sexyLAMBCHOPx September 12, 2011
This soup recipe may (may...:)) make me a cauliflower fan yet!
EmilyC September 12, 2011
My husband's not a cauliflower fan either, so he wasn't exactly thrilled when I announced we were having this soup for dinner. But upon his first bite, he paused and said..."this is really good." He ate it all. So definitely give it a whirl! : )