Creamy Garlic Soup with Pasta, Ham and Parmesan
- SERVINGS: 4
- 8 fresh thyme sprigs or 4 sage leaves
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth
- 3 heads of garlic (8 ounces) separated into unpeeled cloves
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- Large pinch of saffron threads (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 4 ounces small pasta shapes
- 1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream or crème fraîche (optional)
- 2 ounces lean country ham, cut into thin slivers (1/3 cup)
- 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, cut into thin slivers
- Tie the thyme sprigs and bay leaf together with a piece of string. In a heavy saucepan, combine the herbs with the stock, garlic, olive oil, sugar and saffron. Add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the garlic is soft, about 35 minutes. Discard the herbs. Transfer the garlic to a plate and let cool.
- Peel the garlic and add the cloves to a blender with 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Blend until smooth. Return the puree to the saucepan and season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice as necessary to sharpen the flavor.
- In a medium saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente; drain well.
- Bring the soup to a simmer and stir in the cream. Add the ham and pasta and ladle into bowls. Garnish with the cheese and serve at once.
Pair with a floral Alsatian Riesling or a juicy Pinot Noir from Oregon.
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