Parsley time

I planned to start this post by claiming that we always, always have a jar, glass, bunch, sprig or mazzeto of parsley in the kitchen. I then realised this would be a fat lie, because at this precise moment, the contents of the jar above is long gone, and there isn’t a sprig or a stem, not a single a leaf of the handsome, very green herb in our kitchen. There isn’t even a bedraggled, neglected, withered stalk lurking under the carrots and the other vegetable orphans in the bottom draw of the fridge. An absence of parsley! A rare thing, but a thing nonetheless.

We almost always have parsley in the kitchen. I wish I could tell you that it’s freshly picked from the garden, but we don’t have one, so it isn’t. It’s usually nice and perky though, because each day, when one or other of us goes to the market – we live virtually on top of the splendid, workday market in Testaccio, five minutes from an organic farmers market and have very erratic jobs, so we can go every day  – we are given a handful of parsley.

Given, because unless you are in need of a great quantity, as I was the other day,  you are usually given parsley, which is called prezzemelo, in Italy. Once you’ve finished the rest of your shopping, a few stalks of flat leaved parsley with broad, bright green leaves and gangly, plump legs will be tucked into your shopping bag. Depending on your loyalty to the stall, you might also be given other odori (which can be translated as aromatics) a carrot, a stick of celery, some basil, a branch of rosemary and sprig of mint or sage.

We almost always have parsley because we use it all the time. Whether it be the fragrant base of a soup, sauce, stuffing or stew, tucked in or under fish, chopped and stirred into cold sauces and salads or sprinkled, like green confetti, over this, that and the other.

Recently I have been using parsley even more than usual, hence the big bunch above. It all started with a wave and punch of nostalgia for watercress (which I adore) from the watercress farm near my parents house. Thoughts of watercress salad, watercress tucked in cold roast beef sandwiches and my mum’s watercress soup. Unfortunately for me, but reassuring in a world where you can find most things everywhere and even more disturbingly at anytime of year, watercress is not to be found in Rome.

In the absence of watercress and yearning a green summer soup, I debated the merits of rocket, basil, spinach and celery but finally settled on trying to make a parsley soup. Using my mum’s watercress soup as a template, I sautéed spring onion (the marvelous pink tinged spring onions (cipolle) from Tropea) and the plump parsley stalks in a mixture of olive oil and butter. Next some diced potato, a little dry white wine, which you evaporate away, some water (or stock if you like) and generous pinch of coarse salt. I stirred and then let the pan bubble and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.

Then I added the parsley leaves and let the soup cook for another couple of minutes. Finally I passed the soup through the smallest holed circle of my mouli and checked the seasoning. If you don’t have a mouli – in which case you should think about getting one because they are invaluable for beautifully textured soups and sauces – a trusty stick blender will do a good job, even though the texture will not be as smooth and silky. Passing the soup through a sieve is long-winded option which creates a beautiful texture if you can be bothered

I let the soup cool to a summer appropriate temperature, which for me is tepid. I imagine this soup would also be excellent chilled, like a nice very cold vichyssoice. I did consider – alla Simon Hopkinson – about adding a little cream, but eventually decided against it in favour of some nice olive oil.

This soup may not have the peppery warmth of one made with watercress, but it’s really delicious nonetheless. It’s very green, beautifully simple, subtle but surprisingly full of flavour. The honest, fragrant goodness of the parsley is given body by the potatoes and gentle spring onion base notes, which in turn are given a certain creamyness by the butter and oil. The plump sweetness and the savory celery-like flavour of the fat parsley stalks really emerge in this soup. Best of all, it’s nice to see a beloved herb, maybe the most vital and reliable member of our kitchen chorus, taking center stage.

The nicest, freshest, most vibrantly green parsley you can find, a generous bunch with fat stalks and tender leaves.

Parsley soup

I have made this soup three times now, twice with water and once with light chicken stock. I loved both. However the water, even though it doesn’t lend the same depth of flavour as the chicken stock, made a simpler, purer, soup, which allowed the parsley to really show off. I plan to try it with a light vegetable stock next week so I may well amend this paragraph. I know some people are funny about tepid and cold soup –  not me – you can of course eat it warm.

2 – 4 servings

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 25g butter
  • A bunch of spring onions, white and green roughly chopped or 2 large leeks, white part only sliced
  • 1 large potato (about 4oog) peeled and roughly diced
  • a very large bunch (about 300g) of flat leaved parsley – leaves separated from stems and stems coarsely chopped.
  • 100ml dry white wine (optional)
  • 1 litre filtered water or light chicken stock
  • salt

Warm the oil and butter in a large based soup pan and then sweat the onion or leek and parsley stalks gently, uncovered for 20 minutes. Add the potato, stir and then the wine. Allow the wine to evaporate away and the add the water or stock, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Simmer for another 20 minutes.

Coarsely chop the parsley leaves and add them to the pan and simmer for two minutes.

Pass the soup through the mouli, fine sieve or blend with a stick blender, taste, adjust seasoning. Serve at room temperature or chilled with a blob of yogurt or some olive oil and bread.


Filed under food, parsley, recipes, soup

52 responses to “Parsley time

  1. Tes

    It looks beautiful. I love the recipe. Can’t wait to try it.

  2. an olive oil heart! this sounds so delicious. i am a parsley lover as well and have been wondering lately if a parsley pesto would be as good as it sounds. for some reason this soup reminds me of a very good one, though v. different, one with spinach, potato, quinoa and feta cheese. sounds strange but very light and delicious. I wonder if some feta or goat cheese might be nice with your parsley soup too! x, e.

    • rachel

      Great minds – we made parsley pesto too, and it was good – I will post the recipe at some point. I love the sound of the spinach, potato, quinoa soup and yes, I think feta could work beautifully with this parsley soup.
      Wonky olive oil heart or pacman, i couldn’t decide !

  3. I love that you’ve turned the herb so often though of as only an accompaniment and garnish into a star here. I’ve had good success with parsley pesto as well, using walnuts in place of pine nuts — the more robust walnuts balance quite well with the parsley’s brightness.

    I also nodded knowingly reading about the purity of your soup’s flavour using only water. When I make my partner’s family’s heritage soup, Portuguese caldo verde, it’s water or bust! All those ribbons of frilly kale and lumps of potato just taste cleaner and more of themselves in water than they do if the soup is made with stock.

    Always a pleasure to drop in and visit your blog.

  4. Ah, this looks lovely, rich and light in all the right ways. I think I hear my parsley patch calling…

  5. It looks so… green! I’m envious of the complimentary parsley that comes with purchase. Just to live in a place where you’re handed parsley as a matter of course, that would be amazing. So much is implied in that one gesture.

    • rachel

      Italy is not an easy country, but yes the free odori is a daily pleasure that puts everything right for a while.

  6. Love this idea–not sure I’ve ever seen a parsley soup before but have been thinking about cold soups a lot lately. Gorgeous!

    • rachel

      Yes, it is cold soup time here and in NY too i hear, this is a lovely one for one for with of your judiciously chosen wines !

  7. caroline

    So for those of us who do have access to watercress, would substituting it for the parsley yield your mum’s soup?

    • rachel

      Caroline yes, you lucky people who have watercress can substitute it for the parsley. It is absolutely one of my favourites.

  8. We have a wild gaggle of parsley in our garden – I can’t wait to make this!

  9. TD

    Hi Rachel!
    I haven’t had time to check your blog in a long time, but now that I am back, I can’t wait to try this parsley soup. Your story about tucking in a little parsley in the shopping bag is very sweet. Growing up I saw coriander leaves and small, hot, green chilies being tucked into by dad’s old shopping bag in the neighborhood market. Not sure if that still happens in that part of the world. Where I live now, finding a bit of coriander leaves that smell like the real thing is reason enough to celebrate. So we pay, often too much. Parsley, though is quite abundant here. So I must try this soup this summer…some time real soon. I once had a very similar coriander leaves soup that was served chilled with a small dollop of sour cream. It was quite divine.

    • rachel

      Nice to have you back, really.
      I am clearly on a green soup roll because the idea of coriander soup is now fixed in my head, inspired.
      It is very hard to find coriander in Rome – but I am now on a mission. Things tucked in shopping bags for free are lovely.

  10. This post was like a little love story to parsley! I feel badly now, because I frequently shrug my shoulders at it when I get a bunch in my food box, because I’ve never known what to do with it! What a fantastic idea, to make parsley soup!

    • rachel

      That is such a nice comment because I do love it. I should admit am often guilty of parsley neglect, we get so much, I often forget about it and it withers in the bottom of the fridge.

  11. It’s growing in the garden right now. I do tire of the washing/drying/chopping of it every day. It is needed, though. I could taste the soup in all its variations (water, chicken stock and vegetable). It would do well with some cream, I think. Did you make that bread too? I can’t stop looking at it.

    • rachel

      garden envy.
      No I can’t take any credit for the bread, actually its pizza bianca with olive oil and salt from the bakery we live above (above, it kills me) you would love it.

  12. What a pretty soup! so if one was to make it with watercress, would they just sub out watercress in an equal amount for the parsley? Weirdly my husband dislikes parsley in large amounts (unless I throw it in with lots of basil). Who dislikes parsley? How is it even possible?

    (Even weirder: he really likes cilantro. What a weirdo.) 🙂

    • rachel

      haha I know another weirdo who hates it too…now he is really really wierd, he doesn’t like chocolate either. Yes, sub watercress for parsley and you have lovely lovely watercress soup that cries out for a blob of sour cream.

  13. Betta


  14. Natasa

    I love your blog – I find it has a kind of old-fashioned atmosphere that is really seductive for me. Especially when I saw you are still using the mouli, I haven’t seen this thing in years but I remember clearly my mum used it all the time when making tomato sauces… I think I’ll try to buy one!

    • rachel

      hello natasa
      thank you. As for the mouli, I had seen them used by french friends but never owned or used one until i came to live in Italy. I am now devoted to both the mouli and the texture it creates (as are all my family). it is one of my favourite kitchen things. they are not very expensive either.

  15. I’ll bet that your soup is refreshing, right for the summer heat, and doesn’t need cream. I like the simplest form–water, no chicken stock, with the heart-shaped drizzle of olive oil on top.

    Love the photos, especially the first, with the fun cards on the cabinets (it’s Frank’s world, we’re just living in it!)

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  17. m

    I love parsley…especially now that I’m seeing it in lots of planted plants outside of stores and boutiques. I can count at least three pots in downtown Evanston, IL.

    • Our local Persian store sells bunches of parsley 10 for $1.00. I always have parsley in the fridge, or on the counter. And it never occurred to me to use it in a soup. I used different types of lettuces, but not parsley. Now I am intrigued and I’ll try your soup for sure.
      I enjoy reading your blog. I always thought I’d end up living in Italy (I studied Italian and English at the University), but somehow ended up crossing the ocean and getting settled in the U.S. Oh, well, California is not the worst place on Earth to be!

      • rachel

        Hello lana
        I think California sounds like a rather terrific place to be. I’m glad you enjoy my blog and that you took the time to to let me know.
        I have been thinking about lettuce soup too lately.

  18. Dea

    Hey Rachel,
    finally a new post, your writing is quite addictive you know, and plus a vegan recipe… I am happy!
    I am on a raw kick right now, I know its a crime with all the good food here but its for weight loss.
    My husband is vegetarian and mostly vegan so you just gave us a new inspiring recipe. I will go out and buy a big bunch of prezzemolo tomorrow and make this soup. Ciao bella xo Dea

    • rachel

      I think we could do with a bit of a raw kick too…….I eat just about everything but I love that it is very easy to eat
      as a vegetarian or vegan way so easily and well in Italy and of course Sicily.

  19. I have never had a parsley soup but I would love to try it! Maybe even with cilantro. As a Lebanese who loves parsley, nothing would make me happier than adding this soup to my repertoire of classic recipes.

  20. rachael, i made this last night, with water. it was simple and perfect. we loved it.

  21. I absolutely LOVE Italian parsley. I put it in so many things and it’s the best. Meatballs (lots of it), breading for pork chops with pecorino romano….salads. I have a huge patch of my garden being taken over by my parsley and I love it!
    But soup? WOW! I’ve never even thought to make soup with it. Thanks so much for this, it looks delicious! I will be making it this summer!

  22. Vivian

    Wow! I had no idea you could store parsley like that! Do you just leave it out? How long does it keep? Must try it 🙂

    • rachel

      Yes, stems in water and in the fridge if you are not going to use it that day. Mine keeps for days, you should change the water every couple though and make sure only the stems are in the water.

  23. Pingback: Parsley pesto « rachel eats

  24. That soup looks delicious; I’ll have to try it.

    I think the English term for “odori” is “aromatics” (aromatic is usually used as a verb, but it can also be a noun meaning aromatic vegetables and herbs like onions, carrots, rosemary, etc.).

  25. Great way to use up excess parsley. I like the idea of letting the parsley flavour really shine through. While I regularly make watercress soup, I’ve never thought to soupify parsley. Lovely idea.

  26. myherbkitchen

    I am parsley obsessed! Can’t wait to try this!

  27. myherbkitchen

    Reblogged this on My herb kitchen and commented:
    Great post on parsley – looking forward to getting my hands on that soup!!

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