Vegetable and Polenta Soup with Crispy Bacon
This recipe is a variation of a soup I made for Jon right after we got married. He briefly decided to become a vegetarian for some reason, and I found this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis. I just substituted vegetable broth for chicken broth, and there you go.
Jon’s vegetarianism is long gone, and it has literally been years since I’d even thought about this soup. As I was writing Pretty Things for December, I took note of one especially pretty dish: Martha Stewart’s Sicilian Beef Stew. Her version goes over mashed potatoes, but I think it would be better over polenta. I was so inspired that I’ve decided to make that for our Christmas Eve dinner, along with Persimmon Pudding—both new dishes I’m really looking forward to!
I went ahead and got the polenta to go with the beef stew, and it jogged my memory about this soup. Adding polenta to the soup is kind of an alternative to adding rice or pasta. It makes it more filling and a little creamy. Growing up in the Deep South, I never heard of polenta until I was an adult. But of course I’d heard of grits. Polenta and grits are almost exactly the same thing.
This time, though, since we’re all meat-eaters again, I decided to up the ante with bacon and some white wine. I have to say, I like my version of the soup better than the original. I decided to cook the bacon first, remove it, and add it back at the very end because I wanted it to be crispy on top of the soup –not soft inside the soup.
Total Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Difficulty Level: Easy
1 pound of bacon, diced
1 onion, medium diced
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into half moons
2 large zucchini, cut into half moons
4 teaspoons of garlic powder
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1- 16 ounce can of diced tomatoes
10 whole sprigs of fresh thyme
8-10 cups of chicken broth
1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon of basil pesto
1 cup polenta
½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
- In a soup pot over medium heat, add the diced bacon. Cook until the bacon is done and crispy, about 10-15 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon, and place it on a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.
- Cook the onion and the carrot in the bacon fat for about 5-6 minutes. Add the zucchini, and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic powder, oregano, diced tomatoes with juice, thyme (sprigs and all), chicken broth, white wine, Worcestershire sauce, and pesto.
- Bring the soup up to a boil, and cook with the lid off for 10 minutes.
- Add the polenta, cover, and continue to cook for at least 30 minutes.
- Right before serving, add the parsley.
- Serve hot and topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese and the cooked bacon.