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In Poland, foraged mushrooms, notably boletus, are prized for their flavor. Many families in Poland serve this vegetarian mushroom soup on Christmas Eve, but in Natalie Jesionka's family, it's served all winter long. There are many different recipes for this soup, depending on the ingredients that are accessible where the cook lives. The addition of white wine is a nod to Jesionka's great-grandmother, who made her own wine from grapes and added it to her soup. In Poland, this soup is served with square handmade noodles called lazanki, but you can serve it with small pasta like orzo, or with barley.

EatingWell.com, January 2023

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Credit: Ali Redmond

Recipe Summary

active:
20 mins
total:
2 hrs 20 mins
Servings:
8

Nutrition Profile:

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In a Polish Household, There's Almost Always a Pot of Soup on the Stove

In elementary school, my mom always packed hot soup for my lunch. I would pour the soup out of my thermos, still warm and comforting, into a small reusable bowl. There was chicken soup with white rice, tomato soup with elbow macaroni, mushroom soup and even pickle soup with perfect bites of potato mingling with pickles and heavy cream.

I didn't realize until I was older how lucky I was to have such thoughtful consideration of my lunches. Now so much of packing my own child's school lunch is about convenience. But growing up in a Polish household, you begin to take for granted that there is always a pot of soup on the stove. 

One of my mom's favorite soups is zupa grzybowa—a Polish mushroom soup that originally used foraged and dried mushrooms. In Poland, mushroom foraging is a national pastime, and the season starts in the summer. Porcini, chanterelle and parasol mushrooms are prized by mushroom hunters, and they offer an aroma and umami that's hard to replicate.

My mom's grandfather was the main mushroom forager in the family. Sometimes my mother would accompany him on these trips, and she learned very early on how to identify mushrooms that are edible and safe versus those that are poisonous. 

When they returned home, my mom's grandmother would clean the mushrooms. She'd sear some of them on the stove, sometimes accompanying them with onions or sauerkraut; others would be stuffed in pierogies and ushka, a Polish dumpling similar to a tortellini, or used to make sauces. 

But the more celebrated ritual was drying some of the mushrooms. My great-grandmother would separate the stems from the caps and then thread each mushroom on a string with a needle. She would hang the garland over the stove, letting the mushrooms dry, concentrating their flavor in the lead-up to winter. 

Those dried mushrooms were used for zupa grzybowa, a mushroom soup that has few hard-and-fast rules, except it always includes dried mushrooms. If you did not have dairy on hand, the soup would be served clear. Dried herbs were a fine alternative to fresh. 

When my mom came to the United States in the early 1980s, it wasn't that easy to call family and ask for a recipe; she had to innovate and try what worked with the ingredients available to her. It took multiple tries to find the flavor that would mirror the soup she had at home in Poland, but she was able to find the right balance with ingredients from her local grocery store. 

Now when I make this recipe at home, I feel connected to three generations of women in my family. I remind myself that I don't need foraged mushrooms or fancy ingredients. This recipe is about ease and using what is readily available. My mom's recipe uses button and cremini mushrooms, but sometimes I mix it up with oyster, shiitake and slices of portobello mushrooms, which can give the soup a different depth of flavor. Feel free to use your favorite varieties. The beauty in this soup is that it will always vary based on what ingredients you have available, and you can let this soup reflect your own style and personal story.

Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Soak dried mushrooms in 1 cup warm water for 1 hour. Drain, reserving the water.

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  • Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add cremini, button and the reconstituted mushrooms. Cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. 

  • Sprinkle flour over the mushroom mixture and stir to coat. Add bouillon mixture, wine and the reserved mushroom soaking liquid. Bring to a slow boil over medium-high heat. Add Worcestershire, bay leaf, thyme and pepper. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer; cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. 

  • Meanwhile, cook pasta (if using) according to package directions. Drain.

  • Before serving, stir cream into the soup and season with more pepper to taste. Serve over the pasta (or barley).

Nutrition Facts

1 cup soup & 1/4 cup pasta
367 calories; protein 5g; carbohydrates 21g; dietary fiber 2g; sugars 3g; fat 17g; saturated fat 11g; mono fat 5g; poly fat 1g; trans fatty acid 1g; cholesterol 49mg; vitamin a iu 627IU; vitamin b3 niacin 2mg; vitamin c 3mg; vitamin d iu 23IU; vitamin e iu 1IU; folate 44mg; vitamin k 4mg; sodium 496mg; calcium 47mg; iron 1mg; magnesium 22mg; phosphorus 84mg; potassium 265mg; zinc 1mg; omega 6 fatty acid 1g; niacin equivalents 3mg; selenium 15mcg.
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