Photo: Karl Gustafson

My dad was a large, brawny wrestling coach, known to his students and friends alike as “Big I” (the moniker is even on his gravestone). He started cooking rather late in life (I was already in grade school), but once he started, having people over to marvel at his culinary creations—like deep-dish pizza made in a cast-iron skillet, with real Caesar salad, down to the raw egg in the dressing, on the side—became his favorite form of social activity. Going out to eat in a restaurant was not something my family ever did—cooking all day for an afternoon feast that slid into dinner definitely was.

To help feed these large crowds, liquids in giant pots, like chili and soup, became standard at Big I’s various gatherings. One of my dad’s standards was a classic broccoli-and-cheese soup. At the housewarming party for my first condo, he brought a large crock of it, and it was so popular and delicious that my friends immediately demanded the recipe.

He wrote it up and some of my friends were a bit taken aback by the soup’s primary ingredient, its driving force: Velveeta, instead of the tidy bags of shredded cheddar cheese they were probably expecting. Sure the processed cheese product makes ideal near-instant queso, but my dad knew that it also melts beautifully to make a perfect soup base. So I’ve adopted that quickly jotted down recipe to make this soup a number of times on my own.

It’s pretty easy, because Velveeta. You don’t even need to add much seasoning, as Velveeta is pretty salty on its own. I suggest a nice smoked paprika and some fresh cracked black pepper—you could also possibly add a few drops of hot sauce if you want a little heat.

You can really use any kind of vegetable to this soup, but broccoli-cheese is a classic combo. Go the easy route and defrost some frozen broccoli, or amp it up a little and sauté the broccoli with some shallots. Or even roast it for a smokier addition. Sometimes I add mushrooms, sometimes not.

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Whatever vegetable preparation path you take, now that soup season is upon us, this is a fairly easy, delicious, soup home run right out of the park. Mainly thanks to the Velveeta. And my dad. Thanks, Dad.


Big I’s Broccoli Cheese Soup

Photo: Karl Gustafson

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  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, can add more to thin
  • 16 oz. Velveeta cheese, cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Pepper to taste
  • 2-3 heads broccoli, chopped and sautĂ©ed in olive oil with some shallots or garlic (you could also roast the broccoli or use a 16 oz. bag frozen broccoli that’s been thawed)
  • Optional: Other vegetables like carrots, mushrooms, cauliflower, sautĂ©ed or thawed from frozen
  • Optional: Few drops of hot sauce

Sauté the garlic in the butter; once that’s browned, whisk in the flour slowly. Once combined completely, whisk in milk, stirring frequently until it starts to thicken. Then whisk in chicken broth. Once that’s combined, add the Velveeta, and whisk thoroughly until melted through. Make sure the consistency is the way you like it: for thicker and cheesier, add more Velveeta; to thin it out, add more chicken broth.

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Add paprika and pepper (and hot sauce, if you like) and stir until combined. Then gently fold in the vegetables and serve.