This is a mash up of about three different recipes that I’ve been experimenting with. Two from Cooks Illustrated with a few touches from two of my local lunch soup places. Makes about 4 quarts, serving 8 to 10
So I’m all about soups right now. For three main reasons:
- Leftover potentials: I’m a busy person and don’t have time to cook every night. But I want a home-cooked meal most nights. Soups, done carefully, can last several days to over a week.
- Weight-maintenance: Soups are a great way to lose/maintain weight with heavy on the liquids.
- Eat food/not too much/mostly plants: Soups are a great way to incorporate less meat, less carbs, more veggies in your diet.
But, there have been several issues I’ve had with soups. Predominately:
I don’t like big chunks of veggies. For all I’m trying to incorporate more plants in my diet, I just don’t like big chunks of them in my soups. So for this, I pull out the Cuisinart. It’s not necessary for this recipe if you don’t have the same issue I do, but if you do, then buy/pull out the Cuisinart and your chunky veggie issues will disappear.
Figuring out how to make them last over days without making things like the pasta a mushy mess. Cooks Illustrated recipe indicates that the pasta creates a problem. This is true, particularly if you like this recipe for the multi-meal aspect. How I’ve gotten around this is to not cook the pasta in the soup itself but make each time you eat the soup. I cook the pasta in half/half water and chicken stock to get the flavor in the pasta since I’m not cooking in the soup proper.
Cooks Illustrated recipe indicates that the pasta creates a problem. This is true, particularly if you like this recipe for the multi-meal aspect. How I’ve gotten around this is to not cook the pasta in the soup itself but make each time you eat the soup. I cook the pasta in half/half water and chicken stock to get the flavor in the pasta since I’m not cooking in the soup proper.
If you’re like me and you don’t like the chunky vegetables in your soup, then pull out your Cuisinart and do all your chopping with that. If you’re going to do this, process your parsley and kale first (even though they go in the soup last) and set aside before doing more liquid ingredients like onions, tomatoes, anchovies, etc.
Ideally, the parmesan cheese rind makes for the best taste. But I don’t always have one handy. So a take-out restaurant sized ramekin of parmesan substitutes for the cheese rind fine. Not as good, but doesn’t really detract.
I process all the ingredients in my Cuisinart in advance for ease of preparation. Even if you decide to chop everything by hand, I recommend doing it in advance for quick assembly/cooking.
Prep in advance (hand chop or food process)
- 3 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped fine (I use a food processor)
- 1 medium onion, chopped fine (about 1 cup) (I use a food processor)
- 1 medium rib celery, chopped fine (about 2/3 cup) (I use a food processor)
- 4 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 heaping tablespoon) (I use a food processor)
- 3 anchovy fillets , minced to paste (about 1 teaspoon) (I use a 2 ounce package and put in food processor)
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with liquid
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves (I use a food processor)
- 1-2 cups chopped kale (I use a food processor)
- Chicken sausage (I prefer mild Italian or rosemary chicken sausage)
Have ready on hand:
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 piece Parmesan cheese rind, about 5 inches by 2 inches (I’ve cheated here with a take-out size ramekin of ground parmesan)
- 2 cans (15 ounces each) cannellini beans , drained and rinsed
- 3 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth (personally, I use home-made broth, but store-bought is fine too)
- 8 ounces orzo or other small pasta (ditalini, tubetini, conchigliette)
- Ground black pepper
- 2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)
Pancetta/Bacon, Vegetables, and Seasoning:
- Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes. Add pancetta/bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Add garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and anchovies; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add tomatoes, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan.
Beans and Whatnot:
- Add cheese rind and beans
- Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer to blend flavors, 10 minutes.
- Add chicken broth, 2 1/2 cups water (I’ve found less water is needed, but judge for your own taste), and 1 teaspoon salt
- Increase heat to high and bring to boil.
1. Smoosh (smoosh is a very technical term and there is even a tool for it) and brown four links of chicken sausage in separate pan
Kale/Parsley & Finishing:
- Discard cheese rind.
- Stir in 3 tablespoons parsley (I use way more than this)
- Stir in Kale
- Stir in browned sausage
- Put in oven at 250 degrees in covered Dutch Oven for one hour at 250 degrees (I’ve been told the 250 degrees oven is the perfect simmer and I’ve not been steered wrong since).
- This is where you cook your pasta
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Ladle individual pasta serving and soup into individual bowls
- (Optional) Drizzle each serving with olive oil and sprinkle with a portion of remaining parsley
- Pass grated Parmesan separately.