FARGO — Our focus on eating well continues this week with my Healthy Broccoli Cheddar Chowder, a low-fat adaptation of the popular soup.

Yes, it’s still possible to find comfort and flavor using low-fat alternatives to heavy cream and high-fat cheese. Really.

Making the soup starts off with the usual mix of onion, carrots and celery, and without the use of heavy cream, there are a few tricks you can employ to give this soup its chunky, creamy, chowderlike texture.

First, to thicken the soup, this recipe includes one large potato, cubed, which brings heft and creaminess to every bite. Any potato will work, and I prefer the big, red creamer potatoes for this chowder.

Next, a touch of flour is added, along with dry mustard and cayenne pepper. To remove any taste of flour, I cook it with the potato-vegetable mixture for about two minutes, stirring constantly, before adding the liquid.

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To give the soup its chowderlike texture, a portion of the mixture is mashed and then added back into the soup. David Samson / The Forum
To give the soup its chowderlike texture, a portion of the mixture is mashed and then added back into the soup. David Samson / The Forum

For the liquid, you can use either chicken or vegetable stock or broth, or a combination of each. When making soup, I always use a low or no-sodium broth or stock, which allows me to control the amount of salt. However, if you can’t find either, then be sure to taste the soup before adding the amount of salt included in the recipe.

This soup uses both broccoli florets and the stems, which are added in two separate stages as the stems require more time to cook and soften. For convenience, I buy a crown of broccoli, which has already had the stalks removed, rather than a whole bunch. You can find the crowns in most supermarkets, or you can buy an entire bunch and simply remove the stalks, leaving about 2 inches of stems for use in the soup.

Once the broccoli has been cooked into the soup, a portion of the mixture is removed and mashed into a thick, wet, almost pastelike consistency, then added back into the pan. This is an important step in achieving the chowder effect, and you can use either a food masher or wooden spoon to create the mash.

Reduced-fat cheddar cheese and sour cream are added, along with a dash of Worcestershire sauce, to ensure that the soup is full of flavor. David Samson / The Forum
Reduced-fat cheddar cheese and sour cream are added, along with a dash of Worcestershire sauce, to ensure that the soup is full of flavor. David Samson / The Forum

At this stage, the soup can be refrigerated for up to two days or frozen for several months before finishing and serving.

And for the final chowder effect, the soup is finished with the addition of reduced-fat cheddar cheese and sour cream, as well as a healthy dash of Worcestershire sauce. The result is a savory, flavorful and creamy vegetable chowder that is rich in vitamins, protein, fiber and minerals, yet low in fat and calories. That’s what we call healthy deliciousness.

For more ideas on eating healthy, follow along online with my 31 Days of Healthy Deliciousness series at goodfoodandwords.com.

Sarah’s Healthy Broccoli Cheddar Chowder

Sarah's Healthy Broccoli Cheddar Chowder is garnished with shredded Cheddar cheese and scallions. David Samson / The Forum
Sarah's Healthy Broccoli Cheddar Chowder is garnished with shredded Cheddar cheese and scallions. David Samson / The Forum

Ingredients

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 large carrot, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 large red potato, peeled and diced into half-inch cubes

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon dry mustard

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, or ¼ teaspoon dried

1 quart low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth or stock

1 ½ cups water

1 broccoli crown (about 12 to 16 ounces)

1 cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded, divided

½ cup reduced-fat sour cream

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

¼ to ½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Scallions, finely chopped, to garnish

Directions

Use a large, sharp knife to separate the stems from the broccoli florets. Cut the stems into 1-inch pieces, then cut the florets into smaller pieces as desired; set aside.

Heat oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring often, until the onion and celery soften and turn somewhat translucent, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Add the potato and garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the flour, dry mustard and cayenne pepper and continue cooking over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly to incorporate the flour.

Add the broth, water and broccoli stems (save the florets for later) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Use a wooden spoon to scrape any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium, cover pan and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the broccoli florets and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover pan and continue to simmer until the broccoli is tender, about 8 minutes.

Transfer 3 cups of the mixture to a medium bowl and use a food masher or wooden spoon to mash the ingredients into a chunky paste. Return the mash to the pan and stir to incorporate.

Add ¾ cup of the cheddar cheese, all of the sour cream and Worcestershire sauce to the soup and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the cheese is melted, and the soup is heated through, about 3 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper, starting with ¼ teaspoon of each and adjusting as desired.

Transfer soup to serving bowls and garnish with the remaining cheddar cheese and a sprinkling of scallions.

Sarah’s Tips:

  • If you can’t find low or no-sodium broth, wait to taste the soup before adding the salt, then adjust as desired.
  • Use any potato in a pinch but look for creamy varieties like big reds or Yukon gold for extra starch and creaminess.
  • For advance preparation, once the mashed portion has been added back into the soup, you can refrigerate it for up to 2 days, or freeze it for several months, until ready to serve. If refrigerated, reheat over medium heat until hot, then add the cheese, sour cream and Worcestershire sauce. If frozen, thaw first before reheating.

“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.