Soulfood Power Bowl: Sweetpotato – Squash Soup & Nasturtium Pesto

 

In part 3 of our Sapori d’Autunno blog series, we will cook our favorite cream soup in late September. We call it crema alle patate americane e zucca con pesto al nasturzio. It’s a hearty soup, because by now, I can’t pretend that mornings in Venice are getting slightly chilly.  The difference in temperature between early morning and afternoon keep rising, calling for food that helps us adapt to the seasonal mood swings. We need balanced food which we can make easily, with a little help from herbs.

This time, I use the herbs to make pesto. Our nasturtium pesto consists of pistachios (pistacchi tritati), basil leaves (the ones you could see in the first post of our Sapori d’Autunno Blog Series), pinoli (pine nuts), and nasturtium petals called petali di nasturzio.

Today’s ingredients are all locally sourced, and we’ll tell you a bit about the Estuary of the Venetian Lagoon. Especially in the northeastern part of the estuario, you find flatlands covered with vegetable plantations, vineyards and horticultural centers, separated by the odd wild berries hedge and patch of reeds from each other. There are quite a lot of them, next to Portogrande located near Altino and thus, to the Venice Airport, Marco Polo.

It’s an area called zona risorgiva, for the river Sile is a fiume di risorgiva. Risorgiva means resurgence. For part of its journey, the river flows underground through limestone caves.

Its clear water is so beneficial for these plantations located along its banks. From the Sile area, and across to Lio Piccolo and the Cavallino area, we get incredibly fresh produce then sold here at the Rialto Market.

To make two portions of your cream soup, you need 1/2 cup sweet potatoes, cut in cubes, and 1 1/2 cups soft, yellow squash, also cut in little cubes. Currently, the soft piena di Napoli is available at the market. Zucca Marina di Chioggia is also arriving at the markets. (We’ll cover squash from the Veneto in detail later in October :-) ) Cook the vegetables with 1-2 white onions in water in a pan until soft. Puree them and flavor with sea salt, black pepper and a hint of cinnamon.

How to make your pesto al nasturzio – nasturtium: Blend nasturtium, dill and basil leaves in a mortaio (mortar) with pine-nuts, parmesan flakes. and chopped pistachios and a few drops of olive oil until you get a smooth mixture. Please note – never cut herbs when making pesto. Reduce the herbs to small pieces / leaves with your hands !

Top your soup with pesto, a few drops of chili-flavored olive oil, freshly ground black pepper and a few twigs of dill. Flavor with a teaspoon panna (cream) if you like.

If you don’t have nasturzio available, use a tiny bit of freshly harvested red chilis to add a sharp, refreshing flavor to your soup.

Nasturtium growing on our window ledge

Tomorrow, we’ll take you on a trip to discover le risaie – rice fields in the Veneto, and our favorite recipe for risotto in early autumn.

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