There’s a nip in the autumn air. Sweaters are retrieved from the back of the closet and a mosaic of rust, yellow, and brown leaves blankets the hillside. Signs that it’s time to pull my tasty bread and soup recipes from my files. Harvest pumpkin soup and chicken gumbo are easy enough to make on short notice and filling enough to take the chill off a breezy fall day. My Zuppa Toscana is a clone of the famous restaurant soup. And since ladle & loaf go together, I’ve included two simple quick bread recipes to serve alongside.
Harvest Pumpkin Soup
This is my go-to pumpkin soup for a simple supper or as a starter for casual and holiday entertaining. And here’s a bonus: This soup tastes better after it sits a day in the refrigerator, so it’s a good soup to make ahead.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup yellow or white onion, diced
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon light brown sugar, or to taste
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch dried thyme or a few minced fresh thyme leaves
- 3-4 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth
- 2 cups pumpkin homemade pumpkin puree or 1 can, 15 oz. pure pumpkin puree
- Freshly ground nutmeg to taste
- A shake of ground cayenne pepper or to taste
- 1/2 cup whipping cream
- Salt to taste
- Melt butter over medium heat in soup pot. Add onion and garlic and cook just until onion is translucent, not browned.
- Add brown sugar, cinnamon, and thyme and cook a few minutes until the garlic smells fragrant.
- Whisk in broth and pumpkin puree.
- Add nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and salt. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
- Stir in cream.
- Transfer soup, in batches, to a blender and puree until smooth. (Instead of a lid, place a towel on top of the blender to catch any splashing soup).
- Return to pot and if too thick, add more broth.
- Serve plain, or garnished with a thyme sprig or with a drizzle of roasted red pepper puree.
- If buying pumpkin puree, buy only pure pumpkin puree, with no added ingredients.
- Swap it! Substitute butternut squash for the pumpkin.
- Leeks can be substituted for onions in most soup recipes. You will get a more mild flavor.
Chicken Gumbo Soup
This soup was the most popular for many years at our church bazaar. I had lots of requests for it, so I developed a recipe for the home cook.
- 1-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 1 generous cup onion, diced
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried basil or more to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup white rice
- 1 can, 14.5 oz., diced tomatoes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 6-8 cups chicken broth
- 10 oz. frozen cut okra or 2 cups fresh okra, sliced
- Fill a soup pot with olive oil over medium heat — just enough to cover the bottom. Add chicken, bell pepper, celery and onion and cook just until chicken loses its pink color.
- Stir in garlic, basil, bay leaf, rice, tomatoes, salt and pepper, and 6 cups chicken broth. Bring to a gentle boil, lower to a simmer and cook, covered, until chicken and rice are done, about 20 minutes. Add more broth if desired.
- While soup is cooking, sauté okra in a little olive oil or butter just until crisp/tender and still bright green. You can also simply steam it in the microwave.
- After the soup is done, adjust seasonings and remove bay leaf.
- Add okra and serve.
- Use brown rice instead of white. Add 15 minutes to cooking time.
My restaurant-style version of this Italian peasant soup is a real winner.
Note the dry mashed potato flakes in the recipe. I use dry mashed potato flakes as a thickener and nutrient booster in soup recipes like this, or any creamy soup. It’s my secret ingredient for thick and rich soups!
This is a to-taste recipe.
- 1 pound hot Italian sausage
- 1/2 pound bacon, cut into small pieces
- 2 cups diced yellow or white onion
- 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
- 6-8 cups chicken broth
- 2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8” slices
- As much chopped kale as you like (I use several handfuls chopped)
- 1 cup whipping cream or half & half
- Salt to taste
- Dry mashed potato flakes (optional)
- Provolone cheese for garnish
- Cook sausage in soup pot until done. Drain and set aside.
- In the same pot, cook bacon and leave drippings. Cook onion and garlic in the drippings until onions are translucent but not browned.
- Return sausage and bacon to pot.
- Add chicken broth and potatoes. Bring to a boil, lower to a gentle boil and cook until potatoes are tender; about 20 minutes.
- Stir in kale and cook just until wilted.
- Stir in cream and heat through.
- Add salt to taste.
- If you think the soup is too thin, start adding a small amount of dry mashed potato flakes until the soup is as thick as you like. Be careful here. Remember, the potato flakes absorb the liquid and expand.
- Sprinkle with cheese and serve.
- Kale is nutrient dense with lots of fiber, calcium, iron, and vitamins.
- Lacinato or alligator kale, as the kids call it, is milder in flavor than regular kale.
Homemade or Store-Bought Stock for Soup Recipes?
In my soup recipes, I use chicken broth made from homemade chicken stock. I’ll use necks, backs, and feet or stewing hens for stock. Making my own stock allows me to control what goes into it, customizing it as I see fit for use in making seasoned broths. Canning chicken stock isn’t hard, and if you have the time, it’s well worth it to have a supply in the pantry.
Best Soda Bread
Soup recipes always pair well with a slice of bread, warm from the oven. This soda bread is moist and has a touch of sweetness from the dried fruit. Get ready to share the recipe, it’s that good!
- 2 cups all-purpose white wheat flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3-4 tablespoons raw sugar
- 1 stick, 4 oz., butter, softened
- 3/4 cup dried cherries, golden raisins, or cranberries
- 1 cup sour cream
- Melted butter or milk for brushing on top of loaf
- Extra sugar for sprinkling on top of loaf
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Mix flour, soda, salt, sugar, and butter until mixture is crumbly. I do this by pulsing the mixture in my food processor.
- Add fruit and stir to combine. By adding fruit to the dry mixture, it will stay dispersed throughout the loaf when baked.
- Stir in sour cream and mix until blended.
- Place a piece of parchment on cookie sheet. Spray parchment with cooking spray. Form bread into a mound-shaped circle on parchment. If desired, make a cross shape on top.
- Brush with butter or milk. (Butter makes a softer crust; milk makes a crunchier crust). Sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm with slabs of butter.
- No raw sugar in the house? Granulated sugar works fine.
- Measure flour by spooning into cup and leveling top.
Crusty Buttermilk Quick Bread
With just four ingredients and less than five minutes, you can have this bread ready for the oven.
- Unsalted butter for pan and 4 tablespoons for melting on top of bread
- 3 cups self-rising all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 cups whole buttermilk
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat a loaf pan inside all over with softened butter.
- Combine ingredients by stirring flour and sugar together. Make a well and pour in buttermilk. Stir gently until mixed.
- Pour into pan. Melt 4 tablespoons butter and drizzle on top of dough.
- Bake 45-55 minutes or until crust is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
- Serve warm. Best eaten same day it’s baked.
- Whole buttermilk lends moistness, but low-fat buttermilk works well too.
- Measure flour by spooning into cup and leveling the top.
- DIY self-rising flour: Whisk together 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
What are your favorite fall soup recipes and breads?