If you’re hungry for a home-cooked dish but basically all cooked out after the holidays, consider whipping up a big batch of soup. These liquid meals are one-pot wonders that you can usually put together pretty quickly, easily make enough to freeze for later, and clean up in a jiffy. I love soup—soup for lunch, soup for dinner, soup for snack—and pretty much any kind of soup will satisfy my soup cravings. While there are almost endless options to choose from, below are two of my favorites. Both are versatile, so you can add or delete ingredients to suit your tastes (and what’s currently in your fridge and pantry), and both are sure to deliver the soothing comfort that comes from cradling a hot bowl in your hands and slurping savory sips from your spoon. If it’s nice and chilly outside, these actions will warm you from the inside out. And, if we happen to be suffering through a mid-winter hot streak (as we sometimes do down South), just crank up the AC and stick with your soup plans!
This dish is just one of the gems in Giada de Laurentiis’s cookbook Giada’s Family Dinners. And while it’s pretty much perfect the way she makes it, I tinkered with the recipe just a bit to suit my personal tastes (and my forgetfulness). I added Italian sausage and ground beef to make it heartier (and I got this idea from one of my friends); I left out celery and potatoes because, well, I forgot to buy celery and potatoes. I added extra beans to compensate. I added sweet peppers because I’m currently suffering from a sweet pepper addiction. And upon spying some lonely kale in the fridge, its curls starting to unfurl, signaling its imminent demise, I decided to substitute it for chard. You can really add or delete any veggies you like and maybe even add some meatballs instead of sausage and ground beef. The two things you can’t mess with are the pancetta and the Parmesan rind. Without these ingredients, this soup will fall flat. So here’s the recipe with my additions/deletions. Oh, and if you don’t gobble it up all at once, it’s even better the next day.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup shredded carrots
3 to 4 small sweet peppers, chopped
3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
½ pound ground beef
½ pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound Swiss chard, kale or collards stems trimmed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 fresh rosemary sprig
2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
2 (14-ounce) cans beef broth
1 ounce piece Parmesan cheese rind
Salt and pepper
NOTE: Remember to save the rind next time you use up a wedge (or block of Parmesan) so you’ll have it for this recipe. Just put it in a ziplock bag and stash it in the freezer. It will be good there for 6 to 8 months.
HAMBONE & BEAN SOUP
Don’t let this soup’s simplicity fool you. Its ingredient list may be small and its preparation method short, but its flavor and ability to soothe your taste buds, tummy, and soul are HUGE. Plus, it’s a great way to use up that hambone leftover from Thanksgiving or a Christmas-season dinner. You do know to save those, right?
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cans white beans, drained (Great Northern or white kidney beans work great)
1 ½ cups onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups chick stock
1½ to 2 cups greens, chopped (I like collard greens for this)
1 ½ cups chopped ham
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions and sauté over medium-high heat 2 to 4 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the hambone and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, turning it around in the pot while cooking. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the greens and allow to boil for about 10 minutes. You want the stock to reduce just a bit. Add the beans, turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes to an hour. To thicken the soup some, use a slotted spoon to transfer about 1 cup of the beans to a small bowl. Smash them into a paste with a spoon and return to the pot, stirring to mix them in. Add the pepper flakes and the ham and simmer about 15–20 minutes more. Remove the hambone right at the end. Give it a taste and add some salt if needed. Serve with cornbread and enjoy!
SEE ALL WINTERTIME SOUPS PHOTOS HERE