As much as I love all the fresh summer produce, I am craving cooler days and hearty recipes by the end of September. Ready for that change…and to be able to bake and cook without sweltering heat! So, as soon as things cool off, my belly is ready for comfort soups and freshly made bread for dipping. Here are three of my tried-and-true comfort soup recipes that you can tuck into and will hopefully warm you up during these cool days. And how nice is it that soup tastes even better when it’s had time to sit and marry flavors…a great make-ahead meal. Enjoy!
Pasta and Bean Soup: Pasta e Fagioli
(My mom’s adaptation of a Tuscan soup by Mario Batali)
1 pound Italian sausage (casings removed)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon each dried oregano, dried basil, and dried parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium Spanish or Vidalia onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 small (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 16 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
2 quarts chicken/vegetable stock
2 cups beans, drained and rinsed (combination of cannellini, red kidney and garbanzo…or any combo you like!)
1 pound fresh tortellini or mini-ravioli (or you can serve with bread on the side instead of pasta in the soup…or do both!)
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
In a Dutch oven, sauté the sausage in olive oil until no longer pink. Gently break apart into small pieces with a wooden spoon while browning. Remove sausage with a slotted spoon and drain on a dinner plate covered with paper towels. Leave about 2 tablespoons of drippings in the Dutch oven. Discard the rest of the drippings. Into the Dutch oven, add the diced carrots, chopped onions and all the herbs (except the garlic). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium-high heat until they are browned and soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and minced garlic, and cook over low-medium heat about 8-10 minutes. (This really intensifies the flavor!) Add the stock, beans and petite diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes. Add the sausage back to the pot in the last 10 minutes to warm through. Meanwhile, cook the tortellini according to package directions. Remove the soup from heat and allow to rest covered for 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings, if needed. Divide the tortellini among 6 serving bowls and pour soup on top. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese or any grated cheese of your choice. If desired, garnish with chiffonade (thin slivers) of fresh basil leaves. Keeps well in refrigerator but free without pasta added.
Italian Lentil Soup
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
8 cans vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes
¼ teaspoon ground pepper or more to taste
1 cup chopped carrots
1 vidalia/Spanish onion, chopped
1 cup lentils, rinsed and picked over for stones
½ cup fine barley or rice (not instant)
Salt and Pepper
Saute the chopped onion and carrots in a little olive oil and 1 Tbl. butter in a 6-quart stock pot. Add the herbs (except bay leaf) and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the bay leaf, tomatoes, broth, lentils, barley or rice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for an hour. Remove bay leaves and check seasonings. We usually add some salt to boost flavor.
Creamy Sweet Potato Soup
(from Simply Recipes; you can find a newer version)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 small celery stalks, chopped
1 medium leek, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1 ½ pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1” pieces (about 5 cups)
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cinnamon stick
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 ½ cups half and half
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add chopped celery stalks and leek, sauté about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes.
Add sweet potatoes, stock, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Remove cinnamon stick and discard. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return to pot.
Add half and half and maple syrup and stir over medium-low heat to heat through. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool soup slightly. Cover and refrigerate soup. Bring soup to simmer before continuing.) Ladle into bowls. Serves 6 to 8.
I truly hope you enjoy cooking and eating these delicious comfort soups! Cheers to a cozy mealtime!