Adapted from The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime by Ree Drummond
You can easily make this soup vegetarian by simply omitting the pancetta and using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
Special equipment: immersion blender
For the soup
- 2 heads cauliflower
- 4 ounces (112 grams) diced pancetta
- 2 small leeks, washed, trimmed, and thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided (plus more to taste)
- ½ teaspoon pepper (plus more for serving)
- 4 cups (1000 mL) chicken stock
- 4 cups (1000 mL) water
- 2 Tablespoons fresh minced parsley (plus more for serving)
- ⅓ cup shredded Asiago cheese (plus more for serving)
For the béchamel
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk
- Cut the heads of cauliflower into small florets and rinse them thoroughly with cold water and drain well. Set aside.
- Heat a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat and add in the olive oil. Add in the diced pancetta and cook, stirring often, until it has crisped and browned. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta to a small plate lined with a paper towel, leaving any remaining rendered fat in the pot. Add the sliced leeks and ½ teaspoon of the salt to the pot and sauté, stirring often, until the leeks have softened completely and are translucent around the edges.
- Next, add in the cauliflower florets, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and the pepper, and toss to combine all the ingredients. Cook, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes. Pour in the broth and water and bring the liquid to a gentle but steady simmer, adjusting the heat if necessary, and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the florets can be easily pierced with a sharp knife. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup. Reduce the heat to low to let the soup keep warm.
Make the béchamel sauce
- In a small sauce pot, melt the butter over medium-low until it has stopped foaming. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk to form a smooth roux. Cook the roux, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes, adjusting the heat if necessary to keep the roux from bubbling or burning (it should have a golden “blonde” color). Pour in the milk and whisk constantly over medium-low heat until the mixture becomes thick, then remove it from the heat and pour the béchamel directly into the cauliflower soup. Raise the heat under the soup pot to medium low, and use a whisk to incorporate the béchamel into the cauliflower soup until it is smooth in consistency.
- Turn off the heat and add in the reserved pancetta, the minced parsley, and the Asiago cheese, and stir to incorporate. Taste the soup and adjust for salt to your taste (I found that it needed more salt).
- Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with additional parsley, Asiago, and a few grinds of black pepper if desired.