On a cold rainy day, a hearty bowl of soup is the best comfort food. I like to leave a little crunch and texture for chewy interest. The carrots stay firm. This can be made vegan by substituting a good, strong vegetable stock for the chicken (Better than Bouillon has a vegetable variety) or tomato juice.
If you like to make chicken stock, by all means. Poach bone-in chicken pieces or a whole chicken with aromatic vegetables. Remove the chicken from the bones and use for salad or King Ranch or other chicken casserole. Reduce the stock. With no hours to spare, I always use the Better Than Bouillon chicken paste for good flavor.
Assuming it is still winter and no fresh veggies are in the garden yet, I’m using organic canned, or frozen. Your own home-canned are even better.
Italian-Style Vegetable Soup Recipe
Makes 3 quarts without added water, about 12 servings or more
• 3 or more tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 big onion, diced
• 3 celery stalks with leaves, diced
• 1 cup diced carrots
• ½ cup white table wine (optional, but good)
• 2 15-ounce cans organic diced tomatoes
• 2 15-ounce cans organic cannellini beans
• 1 pound sweet corn kernels
• 3 tablespoons Better Than Bouillon chicken paste
• few sprigs each of thyme and oregano*
• freshly ground pepper to taste
• pinch of espelette pepper if available
• 1 cup ditalini pasta or other small pasta
• to garnish: shredded Asiago cheese or other Italian cheese
1. In a large pot — soup pot or Dutch oven — add enough extra-virgin olive oil to coat the bottom. Gently sauté the onion and celery just until softened. Toss in the carrots and add the white wine. Simmer a minute to cook off the alcohol.*
2. Now add the tomatoes and the beans with the canning liquid, the corn, herbs, black and espelette peppers and the Better Than Bullion chicken paste. Stir well, bring to a simmer and cook gently until the beans are tender. Taste and add salt only if needed.
3. Add a little water if the soup is very thick then add the ditalini and cook just the time recommended on the box for al dente pasta. Don’t overcook. The pasta will cook a little more while the soup cools and each time you heat the soup.
4. If you want more broth in the soup, add more water now and bring back to a simmer. Don’t add water if you’re going to freeze most of the soup; wait until you’re reheating to serve. I usually add a little water and microwave individual bowls to serve. We do like it thick and hearty.
5. Serve in bowls with a generous pinch of shredded Italian type cheese on top. A crusty roll makes a good companion.
* Use a nice dry white wine that you would happily drink. Never use “cooking wine”! It has stuff in it that you do not want — added so that it can be sold where alcohol sales aren’t permitted.
* If the herb garden is covered with snow, substitute a teaspoon of Italian seasoning.
Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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