Jan 5, 2011

Spinach, Pasta Fagioli Soup

This is an intensely warm and hearty soup for those cold nights when you don't want something with too many calories or fat yet still manages to warm and fill you up. We took the same recipe and varied it according to our tastes. Caitlin added ham to hers while Monica kept it vegetarian - both tasted great and went well with an accompanying salad shown in the previous post. 

Caitlin: I make a really good white bean and ham soup, similar to this one,  but I like this recipe because it uses spinach and basil, giving it some extra nutrition and flavor. Since I made a larger batch, I decided to try half of it pureed, and leave the other half as a chunky soup. Both versions were good, it just depends on your preference - the pureed version is good because it's thicker and feels heartier, on the other hand it's nice sometimes to eat a brothier soup with big chunks of veggies - especially when you're on the mend from a virus (as my family was). But either way, the flavor was great especially with that added bit of ham.
Caitlin's soup simmering 
Monica:  Ok, this soup was definitely difficult for me to photograph, but trust me, it really is delicious.  It is a meal in itself full of nutrients.  I chose to keep my version vegetarian and it was definitely satisfying. Just a side note on the nutritious value of the soup - the white beans are a great source of fiber, they're also lowfat and high in iron and zinc; and of course we all know how great spinach is for you. I recommended using dried beans and soaking them overnight or doing the quick boil method; I just think they have much better flavor than canned.  I pureed my soup and added the spinach and noodles after I pureed it.  I think the flavor of the soup is quite similar to a hearty minestrone, but not as tomato based.  I used San Marzano canned tomatoes (also good to note that canned tomatoes are of higher nutritional values than fresh), but I only used four of the tomatoes so that it didn't overpower the soup.  Once I served the soup I topped it with fresh parsley and Pecorino Romano Cheese (it was the main dish served with a little olive oil brushed crostini), everyone raved about how good it was.  It was a great, healthy comforting meal.
Monica's pureed version
Ingredient List 
Serves 6
1 cup (1/2 pound) dried white beans
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 small bunch of spinach, torn
6 cups stock (chicken or veggie)
2 garlic cloves
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped OR 1 can tomatoes
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
3/4 cup egg noodles, or broken capellini
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
6 tbsp Parmesan cheese, grated or Pecorino Romano
*If adding ham - 1 ham steak cut into chunks

Soak the beans overnight in cold water to cover generously. OR Bring the beans to boil for 2 minutes, then cover and let stand for 2 hours or until softened. Drain the beans and set aside.

In a stock pot, heat the oil. Add the onions and saute for 5 minutes until soft. Add the carrots and saute for another couple minutes. Add the stock, beans, garlic and tomatoes. Bring to boil, turn the heat down and simmer, partially covered for about an hour, or until the beans are tender. Remove from heat.

Cook the noodles in another pan. Drain and set aside.

If pureeing - puree the soup in batches and return to the pan. Add the noodles, basil and spinach - cook until the spinach is wilted. Season according to taste.

To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with parsley and Parmesan. 

Depending on preference, you can add ham for extra protein and flavor. It goes really well with the white beans.

Drink of Choice
Caitlin: A nice stout would really go well with the soup.
Monica: I enjoyed mine with a glass of the mildly sweet, chilled Stella Rosa. (I guess that was a slight indulgence!) 

Caitlin: Angelo Badalamenti's soundtrack for Twin Peaks. After ruining the ending for someone at a x-mas party (still sorry, Sherry), my husband and I have been re-watching the series. The music is strangely appropriate for the Pacific Northwest rain and gloom.
Monica: The soup was hearty and warming, so I chose some sweet songs (for the most part).
1)  Got My Sunshine - Mojave 3
2)  Mrs. Vanderbilt - Wings (sorry I am on this 1970's McCartney kick right now)
3)  Lullaby - Starsailor
4)  A Lovely Way to Spend an Evening - Frank Sinatra
5)  You Really Got a Hold on Me - She & Him

A Recipe to Remember?
For sure - a nice hearty, healthy and satisfying soup that's perfect for gloomy winter days.

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