Pea and Ham Soup

We all know about the classic split-pea and ham soup, often pale green in color. This soup is not that.

I cook fresh peas in a flavorful stock and blend with it mint for a refreshing, bright green soup made even better garnished with crisp pancetta and croutons. It’s delicious served either hot or cold.

You can also make it year-round using widely available frozen peas. I avoid canned peas, as I find that their color and flavor pale in comparison. Double the recipe as needed; this soup will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Serves 4

For the Stock

  • 6 cups water
  • 1 small onion, cut into quarters, peels reserved
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 carrot, sliced into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup mixed fresh herbs and stems
  • 20 peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf

For the Soup

  • 8 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 2 slices white bread, diced into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 pound fresh peas (from about 2 pounds unshelled peas; or frozen, thawed)
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • Sea salt and ground pepper to taste

Make the Broth

In a large stockpot, combine the water, onion, celery, carrots, mixed herbs, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain, discard solids, and set aside.

Make the Soup

In a medium sauté pan over low heat, add the pancetta and cook until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. To the rendered fat in the pan, add a couple more tablespoons of olive oil, and quickly sauté the diced bread until golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic, and celery and sauté until translucent. Add the peas and 4 cups of the reserved broth. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the peas are soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the mint, and stir until the leaves soften.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until very smooth, adding more water if necessary. If serving hot, return to a clean pot and reheat. If serving cold, place in the fridge to chill. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with pancetta and croutons.

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