For the first week of the new year, I make a big pot of veggie soup. I love that it has so many possibilities. I can change up the veggies, use different tomato flavoring, and toss in pasta, rice, or farro for added substance. This soup is bubbling away on top of my stove as I consider what beans I might choose to add to this colorful dish. I usually choose garbanzos, but cooked white beans or cannellini beans would also be good.
My latest rendition uses tomato paste instead of diced or crushed tomatoes. When the tomato paste is cooked, it takes on a slightly caramelized flavor and boosts the flavor substantially. Cutting the vegetables into a small dice quickens the time for cooking, and the pieces are the perfect size for eating. You need only to peel and cut the carrots and zucchini. Choose pre-peeled and cut butternut squash for ease in prep time. I always add a rind of Parmesan cheese to any vegetable-based soup to kick up the flavor.
I like to take a few cups of the soup, puree it, and then add it back to the soup pot. It offers a lovely way to thicken the soup without adding extra starch. The only caveat to this is that you should not add any pasta or grain until after you have pureed the 2 cups of soup. I think this is the best of both worlds: a perfect combination between a total puree and a thin soup texture. Garnish with a sprinkling of fresh herbs and fresh Parmesan cheese. You could add a dollop of favorite pesto, if desired. Serve this with slices of crusty French bread.
Four Vegetable Soup
Serves 4 to 6
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 leeks, light green part and white parts only, cleaned and finely chopped
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
- 4 zucchini, cut into 1-inch dice
- 1 pound peeled and cut into 1-inch dice butternut squash
- 1 teaspoon favorite seasoning salt
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- Rind of Parmesan cheese
- 1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley or basil
- 1/2 cup cooked rice, farro, or pasta, optional
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley or basil, for garnish
In a 3-quart pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté for about 5 minutes or until softened. Add the carrots, zucchini, squash, and seasoning salt. Sauté for about 3 more minutes or until mixed well and beginning to soften. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes stirring to evenly blend it with the vegetables.
Add the broth and Parmesan rind. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Partially cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Add the garbanzo beans and cook another 3 minutes or until heated through. Remove the Parmesan rind.
Measure out 2 cups of soup into a food processor or blender and puree. Return to the soup pot. Add the salt and pepper. Add the parsley or basil (at this point, you can add any cooked grain or pasta you desire and cook until just done). Taste and adjust the seasonings.
To serve, ladle into shallow soup bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese and herbs. Serve immediately.
Advance Preparation: The soup may be prepared up to five days ahead, covered, and refrigerated. Reheat gently. This may also be frozen. Defrost and reheat gently. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.