Paul Bertolli's Cauliflower Soup

December 2, 2011

Test Kitchen-Approved

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
Prep time: 7 min
Cook time: 1 hrs 13 min


  • 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
In This Recipe


  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.

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Reviews (343) Questions (11)

343 Reviews

DC's P. December 6, 2018
I agree with the others who say this recipe is delicious in all its simplicity. Love this recipe.
Evelyn H. November 10, 2018
Pleasantly surprised! Followed exactly except for the use of an immersion blender
Dy October 8, 2018
I'm going to try this with an immersion blender....
SeeSee June 26, 2018
I’ve had my eye on this recipe for awhile.<br />Now I’m kicking myself for not trying it sooner. It is so very good in all its simplicity. Yes, you can add all the other things but if you just follow the recipe, it’s delicious! (I used a stick blender with success)
Todd F. January 9, 2018
I was skeptical that this would be flavorful enough. I also balked at what seemed to me the slow extra steps. I took only a few shortcuts (coarse onion chop, pressure lid, stick blender in pot, no rests), but must say I’m extremely impressed how creamy the texture and how each ingredient shines clear and clean. Hard to believe no dairy. A genius recipe. Use great olive oil: a real spotlight for it.
shayna December 30, 2017
I could not believe how delicious this was! We devoured it! It will be my go-to anytime I have a cauliflower "on the brink". I sprinkled a little nutritional yeast on top and my husband used some parmesan--both were great. Will definitely make many times in the future. Thanks!
Gallypop December 10, 2017
Made this today with good results although I did add a few things. Put in hot pepper flakes with the the onion. Roasted the cauliflower before adding to tbe pot along with a few cloves of garlic also roasted. the cauliflower went to the pot with the roasted garlic, chopped fresh sage and thyme and zest of half a lemon. Will definitely make again and try adding a cup of concentrated chicken stock. Thanks for the recipe!
Xavier October 8, 2017
Delicious! <br />I made it as the recipes suggests and the flavor of cauliflower and onions shine. I had it with a toasted baguette slice with butter, on the side, and a cup of cider. Perfect. <br />
Marsha S. September 15, 2017
We loved it!!!! give it another try!!!!!<br />
Marsha S. September 15, 2017
My friend made this cauliflower soup and used chicken stock in place of the water and also grated in some cheddar cheese to the soup which picked up the flavor overall!!!!!!!
Jasser A. July 25, 2017
This is about the blandest thing I've ever made. The only way I could stomach it is to add a lot of salt. <br />
obp February 12, 2017
Very delicious. Amazing that something so satisfying is made without cream or butter.
Alice February 9, 2017
I just made this soup and it's a bowl of silken deliciousness! Even before the 20-minute resting stage it was perfectly thick. I added more salt while it was simmering since that's when one would typically add salt to a soup, and I only added four cups of water and skipped the additional 1/2 cup. I finished it with few drops of lemon juice along with the olive oil and pepper, and added a twist of ground sea salt. If you know French home cooking you'll get what this recipe is all about. Simplicity from just a few ingreds. This tastes like something I would be served at my Aunt Madeleine's table.
Allison T. February 9, 2017
I use vegetable stock and add bay leaves. SO good! I seriously eat it at least a few times a week.
Alice February 9, 2017
Great idea! I was thinking of bay when I made it.
Jeffrey W. February 9, 2017
Mindless drones lend my your are a guide for the intelligent cook and nothing more.(mic drop)
Tamara N. February 3, 2017
For me it was bland. Next time I would add some stock, maybe turmeric to help it along.
Ali W. January 9, 2017
This soup is SO good, its flavors are so delicate coming from a few simple, fresh ingredients. I'm a fan.
Martin November 7, 2016
Pleasantly surprised. Super simple, which is a huge plus for me, and not so bad at all (this coming from a someone who is married to a vegan). A gem of a recipe.
LauriL September 25, 2016
Without getting distracted by all the comments below....I love this recipe. Thank you Kristen for finding and sharing it!
Glenn September 18, 2016
I'm a fan of the soup as is, not at all a detractor. I just suggested some other possible uses, as well as a semantic thought that might explain why it disappoints a very few.