How many of you have gotten a chance to eat some fresh peas this spring? Or some pea soup?
I absolutely love fresh peas. Can’t help but eating some while I’m shucking. The first time I actually ate raw, fresh peas was at work. That’s exactly where this pea soup recipe comes from actually, so I can’t take full credit. Last year, we made a pureed pea soup just like this, but with slight variations on the toppings. Prosciutto instead of pancetta, and full fat yogurt or sour cream instead of the creme fraiche. So so close, though.
Now, to be honest, I used frozen peas to make the soup itself. You can obviously use all fresh peas, which I’m sure would make an amazing pea soup. The reasons I didn’t were practical. It’s time consuming enough to shuck the peas needed for the topping. You’d need to buy a LOT of fresh peas to have enough to make this pea soup. You’d also be shucking for a movie’s length of time. If you are ambitious and into it, I will not not discourage you, but the frozen peas work really well here.
This soup is so simple and clean tasting. The ingredients are olive oil, onions, peas and water. That’s it. No broth, no butter, no cream. You don’t need them! The toppings help compliment the soup, and that’s all the flavor and interest you need.
One other thing to point out… Yes, I call this soup a chilled pea soup. That’s how I ate it first, and that’s usually how I prefer to eat it, especially if the weather is as warm as it was here earlier this week. Despite all that, this soup is absolutely delicious served hot as well. So depending on your mood and the weather conditions, go hot or go cold.
Perhaps more important than the temperature, are the toppings. Don’t be fooled by my dainty styling on these photos. When I eat this pea soup, I pile on the toppings high. It’s great with a few heaping spoonfuls each of pancetta, peas and croutons, and a generous dollop of creme fraiche. So don’t be shy! Oh and don’t forget the olive oil and pepper. Load up on toppings and dig in.
- 1 large onion
- ¼ to ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cups frozen peas, defrosted
- 2 ½ cups water
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 6oz pancetta, cut into ½ inch cubes (can substitute bacon or prosciutto)
- 4oz white bread (Pullman or Italian loaf), crust removed, cut into ½ inch cubes*
- 12oz fresh peas, shucked**
- Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
- Crème fraiche, as needed
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Fresh cracked pepper, to taste
- Warm a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat. Add ¼ cup of oil and onions to the pot. When onions start to sizzle, reduce heat to low. Season with salt. Gently sauté onions for about 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, with little to no color. As the onions cook, add an additional tablespoon or two of oil, as needed, to allow them to gently stew in the oil without browning.***
- Once the onions are sweet and caramelized, add the peas. Season with salt and sauté for about 1 minute. Add water and bring to a boil.
- Transfer to a blender or Vitamix, and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning, as needed. If you do not have a Vitamix, strain the soup through a fine sieve after blending. Cool the soup to room temperature and refrigerate for at least a couple hours, or until chilled. You may prepare and chill the soup several days in advance. If you prefer to serve the soup hot (it’s very good this way too), keep it warm while preparing the toppings.
- After the soup is refrigerated, add pancetta to a cold, nonstick pan. Turn heat to medium and reduce to low to medium-low after pancetta starts to sizzle. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and crispy on the outside and slightly chewy in the center, 20-30 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel lined sheet to drain.
- While the pancetta cooks, prepare the croutons. Warm a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and bread cubes to pan. Season with salt and toss to combine. Once bread starts to sizzle, reduce heat to medium-low and cook, tossing occasionally, until browned and crispy throughout, about 15-25 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool at room temperature.
- Allow the chilled soup to sit at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes before serving. It should be chilled, but not too cold. Right before serving, season the fresh peas with salt and toss in just enough oil to coat. To plate, distribute soup among bowls, scoop in a dollop of crème fraiche, top with a large spoonful or two each of peas, pancetta and croutons, drizzle over oil, and season with pepper. Enjoy.
- *Substitute gluten free bread, if desired.
- **You may also substitute 6oz (1 cup) of frozen peas for the fresh peas. If using frozen peas, defrost them and sauté in olive oil for about 1 or 2 minutes, or until just warmed through. Season with salt.
- ***A half cup of oil may sound like a large amount, however, it provides the soup with flavor in addition to facilitating slow caramelization of the onions.