I LOVE Panera’s Broccoli Cheese Soup!! It is soooo good. And served in a soudough bread bowl, ohmagod. So when I decided to make Broccoli Cheese soup at home, I looked up the recipe for the Panera version. It turns out that the reason the soup is so delicious is because there is almost a whole stick of butter, 2 cups of half-and-half, and a whole block of cheese in this soup! Holy Fat Bomb Batman! I try to be health conscious when I’m cooking so I couldn’t make this recipe and look myself in the eye (or fit into my skinny jeans) after eating/serving it.
So I turned to my trusty subscription to Cook’s Illustrated (thanks again Natasha and David!) to find a healthier alternative. Thankfully I found the perfect recipe. With only 2 tablespoons of butter and no cream, I could feel good about eating several bowls of this soup. But how would it stack up to Panera’s? I followed the recipe almost exactly, but I omitted the dry mustard powder (1 1/2 teaspoons) because we didn’t have it in the pantry and I’m not a big fan of mustard. So how was it? This soup was sooo good. Almost as good as Panera’s. But unlike Panera’s, I didn’t have to feel bad about eating a second bowl of this. And what’s not to love about the beautiful, bright, green color? So, try this recipe out. It may not be Panera’s but it’s a great make-at-home alternative and you can still fit into your skinny jeans after eating it.
Broccoli Cheese Soup
adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 pounds of broccoli, florets chopped into 1 in. pieces and stems trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1/4 in. slices
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 3-4 cups of water
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 ounces baby spinach
- 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded, plus extra for garnish
- 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra for garnish
Preheat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Melt the butter then add the broccoli, onion, garlic, cayenne, and salt. Cook until fragrant, about 6 minutes. Add 1 cup of water and baking soda. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook until broccoli is soft,
about 20 minutes.
Add stock and 2 cups water. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce to simmer. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Add the cheddar and Parmesan cheeses and stir. Next puree the soup, either using an immersion blender or pureeing in batches using a blender. Return the soup to a simmer over medium heat. You can adjust the consistency of the soup by adding up to a cup of water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with extra cheddar and parmesan cheese and sourdough croutons.
Sour Dough Croutons
- 6-8 thick slices sourdough bread
- 1-2 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Slice the sourdough bread into 1 in cubes. Toss with the EVOO and salt. Spread bread cubes evenly on a baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes, tossing once midway through cooking.