Vellutata di cavolfiore

Vellutata di cavolfiore (Cream of Cauliflower Soup)

In primi piatti, Soups by Frank27 Comments

Here’s a dish that’s perfect for a spur of the moment meal, but is so beautiful and refined it could also serve as the starter for an elegant dinner: Vellutata di cavolfiore, or Cream of Cauliflower Soup. A vellutata—like its twin the crema, see the Notes below—can be roughly translated in English as a “Cream of X” Soup, but the cream isn’t really the main point. Rather it’s the smooth and velvety texture that defines this category of dishes. (Velluto means ‘velvet’ in Italian.)

This basic recipe is truly quick and easy. The cauliflower, along with some potato, simmers in a typical flavor base of sautéed onion or leek, topped up with water and broth. Once tender, you purée everything in a blender until perfectly smooth, and finish off the dish with a cream or egg yolk liaison. You should be done in less than 30 minutes. And once you’ve mastered this simple basic recipe, you can use the same technique to make a vellutata out of just about any vegetable.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, trimmed, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1 russet or other baking potato, peeled and chopped into cubes
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced, or 1 leek, only the white part, sliced into rounds
  • Olive oil and/or butter, q.b.
  • Water or broth, q.b.
  • 100ml (1/2 cup) heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1oog (3-1/2 oz) grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

For toppings:

  • Minced chives
  • Minced fresh parsley
  • A drizzled of olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Fleur de sel

Directions

As with so many Italian dishes, begin by making a flavor base, called a soffritto in Italian, by gently sautéing the onion or leek in olive oil and butter in a large saucepan until wilted, taking care to avoid browning.

Add the potato and cauliflower pieces, turning everything over to cover them in the soffritto. Let everything simmer together, turning from time to time, for a minute or two.

Add enough water or broth to just cover the vegetables. Cover and let simmer until the vegetables are perfectly soft, about 15 minutes.

Transfer the vegetables and their cooking liquid to a blender, along with the cream (and grated cheese, if using). Let the blender run until the mixture has turned into a perfectly smooth purée.

Return the purée to the saucepan. Check for thickness. If too thick, add more liquid, which could be more water, broth or cream as you prefer. If too thin, let the purée reduce over a gentle simmer. Check and adjust for seasoning as well.

When you’re ready to serve, bring the purée just to the simmer over gentle heat. Serve with one or more of the suggested toppings and, if you like, slices of toasted bread.

Notes on Vellutata di cavolfiore

The terms vellutata and crema are often used more or less interchangeably, as they both refer to soups of puréed vegetable, but I’ve read various sources that draw a distinction: A vellutata is thickened by adding a cream or egg yolk liaison at the end, while the crema is thickened by using a roux. But others sources like this one say that it is a vellutata is the one that begins with a roux—which actually makes sense, since salsa vellutata is a way to say béchamel sauce in Italian. And, to complicate things a bit further, there’s also the passato, which refers to your basic vegetable purée, but which can be enriched with cream.  I’ll let the experts fight this one out, whatever you call this kind of soup, it’s delicious.

As mentioned, there’s a whole range of vellutate you can make in the very same way with other vegetables according to the season. I love cauliflower in the cold winter months, but pumpkin or beans are equally welcome in the Fall or Winter, asparagus in the Spring, zucchini in the Summer, etc. And you can make your vegetable purée a bit thicker to use it not as a soup on it own, but as a dressing for pasta. I like to add potato whenever I feel I need an especially smooth texture, but it’s optional; many vegetables are perfectly fine on their own. And if you want to make your soup extra rich, whisk an egg yolk into your cream before adding it at the end; bring the soup just barely to the simmer before serving.

And by the way, there no need to throw away the green part of the leeks: it can be used for broth, along with other vegetable scraps.

 

Vellutata di cavolfiore (Cream of Cauliflower Soup)

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6

Vellutata di cavolfiore (Cream of Cauliflower Soup)

Ingredients

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, trimmed, cored and roughly chopped
  • 1 russet or other baking potato, peeled and chopped into cubes
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced, or 1 leek, only the white part, sliced into rounds
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Water or broth, q.b.
  • 100ml (1/2 cup) heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1oog (3-1/2 oz) grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • For toppings:
  • Minced chives
  • Minced fresh parsley
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Fleur de sel

Instructions

  1. As with so many Italian dishes, begin by making a flavor base, called a soffritto in Italian, by gently sautéing the onion or leek in olive oil and butter in a large saucepan until wilted, taking care to avoid browning.
  2. Add the potato and cauliflower pieces, turning everything over to cover them in the soffritto. Let everything simmer together, turning from time to time, for a minute or two.
  3. Add enough water or broth to just cover the vegetables. Cover and let simmer until the vegetables are perfectly soft, about 15 minutes.
  4. Transfer the vegetables and their cooking liquid to a blender, along with the cream (and grated cheese, if using). Let the blender run until the mixture has turned into a perfectly smooth purée.
  5. Return the purée to the saucepan. Check for thickness. If too thick, add more liquid, which could be more water, broth or cream as you prefer. If too thin, let the purée reduce over a gentle simmer. Check and adjust for seasoning as well.
  6. When you're ready to serve, bring the purée just to the simmer over gentle heat. Serve with one or more of the suggested toppings and, if you like, slices of toasted bread.
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Comments

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  3. This is a beautiful soup, Frank – and your presentation is just perfect. Simple. Elegant. I make a similar soup with the addition of saffron and no cream. I need to try yours with the cream -I can imagine it is so smooth!

    1. Author

      I sometimes add a dash of tumeric to this, but do like the idea of adding saffron, David. Will try it next time!

  4. Yes, as others have noted, you’ve got one gorgeous and delicious soup there Frank. I love the drizzle of olive oil and the colorful chives addition too. They really set it off.

  5. Wonderful suggestion for a dreary day here in Northern California. I so appreciate your notes explaining the subtle differences between cream, veluta, salsa volute and passato. I think I will give this a go this evening.

  6. Since I am a vegan, I will try making the recipe with rice milk and vegetable broth. I will let you know if it works out. Daniela

    1. Author

      If you cut out the cream, you might want to use a bit of flour or other starch to create a liaison. Do let us know how it work out!

  7. adoro il cavolfiore e penso che sia sottovalutato, la gente non ama il suo “profumo” , io amo anche quello ! Bella ed elegante ricetta, buon weekend Frank !

    1. Author

      Tante grazie, Chiara! Anch’io adoro il cavolfiore e qui negli States va molto “di moda”.

  8. Isn’t it nice that cauliflower is having a “moment.” Of course it’s always been popular in Italian cooking. I make a heftier version with pancetta “croutons” and crumbled gorgonzola as a garnish. This one sounds just right for spring. Pretty, too!

    1. Author

      I like the idea of pancetta croutons and crumbled gorgonzola … will definitely give it a try next time!

  9. I love the gorgeous bowl this delicious soup is ‘sitting in’!!
    And what a perfect recipe for me since I’m just starting a ‘toxic cleanse’ where I’m supposed to eat lots vegetables which are organic because the ‘toxic cleanse’ will be getting rid of all the toxins built up in my body.
    It’s great that this soup can be made with, pretty much, vegetables of your choice – thanks so much for sharing!! ; o )

  10. What a beautiful and elegant soup. It’s so simple and what a great way to start the meal. Great information and explanation between vellutata and creme, Frank! Now with spring just around the corner there will be lots of inspiration at the Farmer’s Market.

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