I’ve been making an effort to menu plan a little better this year. (I also need to pencil in some blog planning time because it seems like the weeks are flying by before I can get another one up.) I was noticing that I was struggling to come up with new exciting meals each week just because the exhaustion of each day would overcome me by dinner time. (Maybe exhaustion is too dramatic of a description…fatigue…worn out..maybe even burnt out.)
I’m not crazy enough to dictate what we are going to eat each night but I am making sure that I have two good meals planned with a few extra ingredients in the house to make a quick rice bowl, pasta dish or soup.
The soup part has been the easiest and has turned into an event that I now call “Souper Tuesday.” Souper Tuesday has become…well…..super! I always have some sort of broth or stock on hand. I can pull a protein out of the freezer and the veggies are always ready to go in the fridge. The best part is that most soups can either be made early in the day and set in the slow cooker OR I can make them at regular dinner time.
Soups are great because you always have some wiggle room on ingredients as long as you aren’t missing the “main” component. (Like Chicken Noodle…you need Chicken and you need noodles…sadly I shouldn’t have to spell that out to people but alas….I have been giving a chicken noodle soup that was “vegan” and had no chicken!)
This past week, I really was in the mood for pasta fagioli. Pasta Fagioli is an Italian soup that was considered a “peasant” dish due to its inexpensive ingredients namely beans and pasta. It is a robust weeknight soup especially given our frigid temps.
The dilemma was that I didn’t have beans in the house. (I’m not the biggest bean fan so I don’t keep it as a pantry staple.) I thought can I make pasta fagioli and not have beans in it or am I essentially making JUST pasta soup?
Does it matter? YES, it does!!!! It is like calling Chili a soup…it isn’t. It is like making a gumbo without cooking a dark roux. It is like serving an open face pot pie…it isn’t right.
So the soup I ended up making was a delightful base of sautéed onions, celery and sweet carrots. I used a flavorful chicken broth, ground beef and chopped tomatoes as a base. Seasoned heavily with a good quality Italian seasoning and garlic and some ditalini pasta and I had a soup…what soup…I don’t know…but it was a good soup.
I may have to add a few more building blocks into my pantry base but for the most part with a little planning, I think Souper Tuesday will be one of my new favorite days of the week. It makes weekly menu planning a little easier and the best part is that I will have the leftovers for lunch on Wednesday. (I was going to call it the Humpday Heatup but that could go wrong pretty easily.)
1 lb ground beef, browned
1 cup EACH yellow onion, celery and carrots (chopped to the same size)
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 28 ounce jar of good quality crushed tomatoes (or a San Marzano Passata)
5 cups of chicken broth
2 tsp Italian Seasoning (We all have that bottle in our pantry, if not sub in oregano and basil with a dash of thyme.)
1 cup of ditalini pasta, cook it per directions and set aside
Parmesan Cheese and Fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
In a large Dutch oven, heat about 1-2 TB of olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the veggies until they are just starting to get soft. Give them a good sprinkle of salt and pepper. You don’t want browning so you may need to adjust your heat.
Add garlic and cook another minute. Add the tomatoes, broth, cooked ground beef and seasoning.
Simmer for at least 30 minutes. (Mine cooked for 6 hours in a slow cooker) Taste for seasoning. I had to add a little extra salt to mine.
In individual bowls, add a handful of the cooked pasta. (You don’t literally have to use your hand but if you do…please wash it first.) Ladle some soup on top and give it a good sprinkle of fresh parsley and parmesan cheese.
And if you happen to go to the store while your soup is cooking, pick up a can of beans and cook them in a pot and add a scoop to each bowl and change the name of your soup back to Pasta Fagioli!