COOK: Cannellini and Chard Winter Soup

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It is COLD outside, which means it’s time for hearty warm soups inside.

This is one of my favorites, not least because it’s made with things you probably already have (or are worthy items to stock next time you shop). It’s fast and easy. And there are several more reasons why this soup (and its endless variations) belongs in your winter soup starting line-up.

Vegetable juice makes for a much more interesting tomato base — less acidity and more complexity, like tomatoes and veggie stock combined into one. In this version I include bacon, but you can just ignore that for vegetarians. The beans add all the heartiness you need.

If you buy Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano for grating and wonder what to do with the rind, here is your answer. Drop it in soup for a few minutes at the end of simmering (remove before serving) and you’ll add umami depth to the brightness.

Those on carb watch can reduce the amount of pasta, but if you are serving your family this one-pot wonder, your kids will love all the short fat macaroni!

Chard and White Bean Soup
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped fine
4 oz bacon, coarsely chopped (you can skip this for the vegetarian version)
8 oz chard, thoroughly washed, stems removed (and reserved for a later stir fry or sauté), chopped (kale or spinach can be substituted here, fresh or frozen. Cook kale longer and spinach for a shorter time)
16-24 oz low sodium vegetable juice (like V-8)
2 cups water
1 cup ditalini or other chunky short pasta
15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (great northern or navy beans can be used as well)

2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley (or 1 Tbs dry)
leftover Parmigiano/Gran Padano rind or several tbs good grated cheese
Salt to taste

In a soup pot heat olive oil on medium high until fragrant, add onions, stir and lower heat. Sauté until wilting, then add celery and sauté until softened. Add bacon (if desired), raise heat  and cook through, stirring occasionally. Add chard and sauté until wilting. Add vegetable juice, add two cups water, bring to a boil, and add pasta. Lower heat to a vigorous simmer. After 10 minutes, add beans and parsley and parmigiano rind, if you’ve got. You may need or want to add more water. Heat through, adjust salt if necessary, test pasta and serve (with generous amount of grated cheese, if you didn’t have rind) with crusty bread.

For a collection of 17 Warming Winter Soups visit Natalia’s blog Hot, Cheap & Easy.

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