Thursday, March 28, 2013

Going Deep

Veggie Loaded Pasta e Fagioli Soup
With Easter three days away, the end of my Lenten vegetarianism is in sight! But there are still a few meatless meals in my path. After thirty-seven days of flesh-free soups, salads, and pastas, I'll admit I've been missing the illusive and simple depth of flavor that even just a little animal fat supplies. Suddenly lacking my go-to ingredients, I am marveling at how much richness a few ounces of bacon or a thin cut of steak can supply to an entire meal. Not that I want to dismiss veggies! I love them - the crunch, the unexpected texture, and necessary light notes are invaluable guests at the dinner table. With this soup, I was in search of ways to add that savory depth meat so easily provides and came up with spice and smoke. (One of my favorite additions to my vegan chili, for example, are chilis in adobo sauce.) This rich vegetarian twist on a Pasta e Fagioli Soup (literally "pasta and beans") is packed with protein and a variety of delicious veggies with a subtly spicy kick. I topped it with homemade toasted garlic croutons, but any good quality bread is the perfect finish for this richly satisfying soup.

- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
- 2 stalked celery, trimmed and diced
- 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1/2 c. dry red wine
- 6 c. vegetable broth
- 1 14.5 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig fresh basil with leaves
- 1 Parmesan rind
- 1 small bunch kale, stems removed, leaves torn into small pieces
- 3/4 c. dried ditalini (or similar) pasta
- 2 Tbsp. Italian parsley, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- croutons, bread, and grated Parmesan for serving

Heat olive oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium. Add diced onion, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until it becomes soft and translucent, about five minutes. Add chopped carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook for an additional 5-7 minutes until all the vegetables soften. Increase heat to medium-high and add paprika and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes. Add red wine and tomato paste. Cook for one minute. Add diced tomatoes, bay leaves, Parmesan rind, vegetable broth, beans, and basil leaves. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Once soup reaches a boil, cover tightly, and decrease heat to low. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove lid from soup pot and discard bay leaves and basil leaves. Add dried pasta, fresh parsley, and kale to the soup. Bring soup to a boil and cook until the pasta becomes tender and kale is bright green, about 8-10 minutes. Remove soup from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls, topping with grated Parmesan, croutons, and slices of crusty bread. Yummy!

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