This past summer I've grown more arugula than I've known what to do with. This fall the arugula has been looking better than I ever expected. Lately I've been coming up with ways to use it all before the frost comes. But there's only so much raw arugula one can eat. So I've started cooking with it, making sautés and even soup. Most people would think that arugula is not for cooking, but in fact many European recipes use arugula. In Italy, arugula is enjoyed in pasta dishes and on pizzas. It can also be made into a very flavorful pesto that can be used in pasta or spread on sandwiches. There's a lot more to arugula than salad.
This soup features the pungent and peppery flavor of arugula. A rind of Parmesan cooked into the soup adds salty flavor. The mascarpone cheese stirred in toward the end enrichens the texture of the soup. Since arugula has a tendency to become stringy when cooked, the soup is best puréed until silky smooth. Serve the soup with grated Parmesan and a drizzle of fruity olive oil to complement the flavor of the leafy green. It's great enjoyed as an appetizer soup or even a simple dinner when paired with crusty bread. There's no better time to grow arugula and enjoy this soup than the chilly months of autumn.
Arugula, or rocket as it is also known, is a green vegetable with long open leaves, unlike a head of lettuce. It is now cultivated, but used to be forage for in the wild. Native to the Mediterranean region, arugula has been around since Roman times. Besides it's vibrant green color and peppery flavor, arugula is well known for being rich in vitamin C and potassium. The Romans gave it prominence by considering it an aphrodisiac. The island of Ischia makes arugula into a specialty drink called rucolino, which is enjoyed after meals as a digestive. Who knew arugula had such an interesting history? It's definitely a vegetable that deserves more credit, beginning with this simple soup recipe.
Arugula Soup with Parmesan
Note: Be sure to wash the arugula in many changes of water to get rid of any grit. Dry the leaves in a salad spinner and remove any tough stems.
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 pound potatoes (about 2 medium), peeled and diced
6 cups chicken stock
1 small chunk Parmesan rind
1 pound mature arugula (2 to 3 large bunches), washed, spun dry, and torn into pieces
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
grated Parmesan, for serving
Warm oil in a large pot set over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add potatoes, chicken stock, and Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and cook, covered, until potatoes are knife tender, about 8 minutes.
Add arugula and cook until tender and dark green, about 8 minutes. Remove Parmesan rind and discard. Stir in mascarpone. Off from heat, purée the soup using an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with grated Parmesan and drizzled with olive oil. Yield: 6 servings.