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December 15, 2010

Recipe for beef and escarole soup with mushrooms and orzo

Beef and escarole soup with orzo

If I'd had an Italian grandmother, I probably would have grown up with a love of escarole. Instead, I came to it late in life, and now I can't seem to get enough of it. Like most dark and leafy greens, escarole tastes slightly bitter when raw. However, when you cook it into a soup, it mellows and sweetens. Pair it with some hot pepper or pepper flakes, and crunchy sea salt. You can make this soup with ground turkey or pork, or go meatless, but don't forget the cheese rind.

Beef and escarole soup with mushrooms and orzo

Serves 6.


1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb extra-lean ground beef
1 head escarole, chopped and washed
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
4 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp thyme
A pinch of piment d'Espellette or red pepper flakes
A pinch of Mor-sels or sea salt
8 cups of homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken broth
1 rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup orzo
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste


In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the beef, and cook, stirring and breaking up any big clumps, until lightly browned. Add the escarole (don't worry; it will cook down), onion, and garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes, then add mushrooms, thyme, Espellette pepper, sea salt, chicken broth and parmesan cheese. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Stir in the orzo, and continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes.

Serve hot, or let cool completely and freeze.

Print recipe only.


Posted by: CJ McD | December 16, 2010 at 10:29 AM

If you can't find piment d'Espellette, Alleppo pepper makes an EXCELLENT substitute. Has a sweeter, more pronounced flavor than red pepper flakes.

BTW- The soup looks so inviting and delicious. Thanks for the recipe.

Posted by: Kalynskitchen | December 16, 2010 at 12:22 PM

I love escarole too, and I know I would love this soup!

Posted by: PerennialPlate | December 16, 2010 at 02:38 PM

This looks wonderful. Especially from where Im sitting in Minneapolis. I really appreciate the vegetarian option -- though Im a meat eater, my girlfriend is not.

Posted by: Lydia | December 16, 2010 at 02:46 PM

CJ, you're right, Aleppo pepper is a wonderful substitute. I always have both on my spice rack. Another possibility is urfa biber -- have you tried that one?

Kalyn, you would love this. It really tastes healthy, but not in a boring way.

PerennialPlate, if you wanted more bulk in a vegetarian version of this soup, use portobello mushrooms. They taste meaty, and would be delicious with the escarole.

Posted by: CJ McD | December 21, 2010 at 10:57 AM

I haven't tried or even heard of urfa biber. I usually get my spices from Spice House or Penzy's and they don't carry it. Who do you purchase it from?

Posted by: CJ McD | December 21, 2010 at 11:06 AM

I make a soup like this all the time for a qucik dinner. So warm and satifying. Healthy too. It makes me feel a bit virtuous, especially after holiday fare.

If I am out of orzo, rice or just want a different "something", I stir an egg with a spoonful of flour and some grated parmesan cheese. Then I drizzle that into the soup for a quick stracciatella type noodle.

Made it that way for my mother and I the night before Thanksgiving, after a long day of food prep. She fell in love with it and now makes it for herself all the time.

As you can tell, I am a fan of soup and Soup Chick!

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  • I'm Lydia Walshin, a longtime food writer who lives and cooks in a real log house. If I could, I'd eat Chinese noodles, grapes, ice cream and soup every day.
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