Adapted from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider.

Serves 4

A composed soup is a broth to which a variety of elements are added. You can make marvelous composed soups by pairing broth with roasted vegetables, pasta, cooked dried beans, herbs, greens, or cooked meat, poultry, or seafood. The possibilities are endless; the resulting soup will be determined by the amount of time you have and what ingredients are on hand.

This method suggests the approximate proportions for a soup for 4 people. The quantity of broth will depend upon the kinds of elements you are adding. Soups containing a protein and some greens will need only about 1 cup broth per serving. Soups with starch ingredients like beans, grains, pasta, and root vegetables, which will absorb a good amount of the broth, need 1½ to 2 cups broth per serving.

If you don't have time to make a broth, you can just simmer low-sodium canned chicken broth with a rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, smashed garlic cloves, or herbs.

  • 4 to 8 cups broth of your choice—such as low-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 4 to 8 cups raw or cooked vegetables, beans or grains—in any combination, such as diced fresh tomatoes, wild mushrooms, roasted peppers, roasted vegetables, or sautéed onions, leeks, or garlic; up to 4 cups can be drained cooked beans, pasta, or coarse kernel grains such as barley, farro, or wild rice
  • 8 ounces to 1 pound cooked lean protein (optional)—such as chicken, beef, lamb, shrimp, ham, or roast pork or lamb shredded or cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped cleaned greens (optional)—such as spinach, arugula, Swiss chard, tatsoi, Chinese cabbage, mizuna, or watercress

Garnishes (optional) singly or in combination, such as:

  • 2 to 4 tablespoons minced fresh herbs—such as flat-leaf parsley, basil, cilantro, chives, or chervil
  • 1 tablespoon or more extra-virgin olive oil or flavored oil—about ¾ teaspoon to drizzle over each serving
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons fennel or cumin seeds—toasted in a small skillet until fragrant
  • 1 to 2 ounces aged cheese—such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, pecorino Toscano, Manchego, or Fiore Sardo, thinly shaved
  • Toasted peasant bread slices—rubbed with a cut clove of garlic

1. In a large heavy saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer over moderate heat.

2. Add the additional components—vegetables, protein, and greens—in order, according to how much time they will need to cook or heat through.

3. Garnish each serving as desired.