Pasta e Fagioli

Soup season is well underway! It’s easy to make, it warms you up, it’s great for leftovers/lunch at work and can be a very healthy meal. Plus you can usually make a great soup with items left in your fridge and a can of beans or lentils.

Pasta e fagioli is one of my favorites, sprinkled with a little parmigiano cheese and you have yourself a comforting well-rounded meal! This soup is packed with veggies and proteins and vegetarians can make it without the sausage.

Ingredients:

  • 1 link, Hot Italian sausage (you can substitute sweet sausage, pancetta, prosciutto or skip the meat all together. But it definitely gives it a nice flavor)
  • Sprinkle of fennel seeds (optional- but I love the flavor it adds to the sausage)
  • 2 garlic cloves (optional)
  • 1/2 of an onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrot stalks
  • 2 small sweet red peppers- or one bell pepper
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 can white cannelloni beans
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 container chicken broth
  • Pasta of your choosing- about 1 cup (I recommend a tiny noodle)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh parmigiano cheese

The nice thing about this soup is you don’t have to include all the veggies or beans I used. It’s all about what you have on hand!

Instructions:

Chop all your veggies and garlic.

Get your large soup pot on medium to high heat, add a little oil and add your sausage. Break it up into tiny pieces with a wooden spoon and brown it.Add in the fennel seeds now if you’re using them. 

Add onions and garlic and saute for 2 minutes. 

Then add the carrots, celery and peppers. Stir and let cook for another 2 minutes. 

Then add zucchini and your can of tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir all the ingredients together.

Add in the beans and turn the heat up on the pot. 

Add in any chicken broth or stock you have on hand. You can also use veggie instead. 

Bring it up to a boil. Then reduce. Let the soup cook with the lid cracked. You then have two options with the pasta.

Either 1)  bring your soup up to a low boil and add the pasta in 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat or 2) boil your pasta separately in hot water and add to each dish based on how much you want.

I tend to prefer option 2 only because the noodles will soak up a lot of your broth otherwise. But sometimes option 1 is just easier. Have extra chicken broth on hand in case your broth gets soaked up.

The soup is really ready at any time because all the ingredients are cooked through, but I like to let it simmer for at least a half hour to let all the flavors meld. Then eat with fresh basil and parmigiano cheese.

Enjoy!

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Black Bean Soup

Black bean soup has been on my food bucket list for a while now. (Yes, I have a food bucket list– which includes foods that I have never attempted to make. i.e. crab cakes, sushi, homemade ravioli, etc). Black beans are good for you and I happen to love them. And loving black beans is clearly a pre-requisite for making this soup. It’s easy to make and it’s a low-calorie, healthy anytime meal/snack (Kyle and I calculated a hefty bowl being under 300 calories). If you puree the entire batch (instead of adding ingredients back in for a hearty more chunky soup), it can be used as a delicious sauce on top of chicken or in a burrito. I know the photo doesn’t exactly make you salivate but I promise it’s good, real good. There were two ingredients I didn’t have in my house which I highly recommend adding; fresh lime juice for some acidity and fresh cilantro for a finishing touch.

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INGREDIENTS:
-4 cans organic black beans
-3-4 cloves of garlic
-1 red bell pepper
-1 Spanish onion
-Olive oil (for sauteing)
-1 Anaheim chile pepper (a jalapeño or other hot pepper of your preference is fine)

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-Broth – chicken, vegetable or beef is fine. It’s a matter of preference. I used vegetable because I had it on hand. I used about 1 box.
-Squirt of tomato paste (optional)
-Seasonings: Salt, Pepper, Ancho chili powder, cumin, oregano
-Optional Toppings: reduced fat sour cream, cheese, avocado, cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS:
-In a large soup pan on med-high heat, add chopped onions with salt and pepper. Let cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add in the peppers and garlic. Stir and let cook for another minute.
-Add the strained and rinsed black beans to the pot and mix well (personal preference, not necessary). Season with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Stir again making sure everything is evenly coated. Let cook for a few minutes.

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-Take about 2/3 of the ingredients out and put in a small bowl to the side.
-Add your broth of choice. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.

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-Using your hand held mixer puree the soup until smooth. If you feel your soup is not thick enough add some tomato paste or if its too thick add more broth. (If you don’t have a hand held mixer, you can pour half of your soup into the blender)

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-Add the mixture you set aside back into the soup bowl and let simmer until you are ready to eat.
-Serve with a small scoop of reduced fat sour cream, a slice of avocado, a sprinkle of Mexican cheese and topped with fresh chopped cilantro. You can use any or all of these toppings. I happen to think the avocado added a creamy and decadent flavor to the soup. Enjoy!

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French Onion Soup with Truffle-Salted Croutons and Gruyere CheeseS

French onion soup is one of the only soups Kyle will enjoy so it’s a natural go to on a fall or winter day. There are many ways to make this soup and I tried to lighten it up by using half the amount of butter normally used. Substituting with a tablespoon of olive oil is a good way to cut down on some of the fat. It’s obviously not an overall light dish but this recipe won’t make you feel like you ate a pound of butter and cheese when you are done.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 sweet onions and 2 yellow onions (or a mixture of your favorites), thinly sliced
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2 tbsp or so of olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Beef stock and chicken stock: 1.5-2 quarts in total (traditionally the soup is made with beef stock but I lighten it up by using half and half)
  • Red wine (roughly a cup or so)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fresh chopped thyme
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • Sliced and toasted French bread
  • Grated Gruyère cheese, enough to cover the top of your bowl
  • Few sprinkles truffle salt

INSTRUCTIONS

1 In a large saucepan, melt the butter and add olive oil on medium to high heat. Add the onions, salt, pepper, bay leaf and fresh thyme. Sauté the onions until they caramelize, about 30 minutes. Stir the onions occasionally.

2 Add 3/4 cup of red wine and bring to a boil. Then lower heat and let the wine reduce to at least half. You want most of the liquid to be gone. Discard the bay leaf.

3 Add the flour and cook on low heat for 5-10 minutes. Make sure not to burn the flour but you want to cook off the flavor.

4 Add the remaining wine, beef and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce and let simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5 Set your oven to broil. Ladle the soup into bowls. Cover with the toast you previously sprinkled with truffle salt. Top with the cheese. Put under the broiler for 5 minutes or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned. For a fresh garnish add chopped chives or parsley. Serve immediately.

Cioppino

Cioppino is pretty much a fish stew. Contrary to popular belief, cioppino did not originate in Italy. It’s an Italian-American dish. It’s traditionally made from the catch of the day, so you should use fish you can get fresh and is hopefully local when possible. The seafood is combined with tomatoes in a wine sauce, and served with toasted bread. The various combinations of ingredients are up to you.

With seafood reminiscent of summer and hot flavorful broth that welcomes fall it is a perfect September meal. It is extremely flavorful, light, fresh and filling- you can’t beat that! Pair with a salad and a side of garlic bread and you have yourself a perfect meal.

Ingredients

Cioppino-
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 large shallots, chopped
  • 2-3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • Tomato paste (1 tbsp plus)
  • Anchovy paste (1 squirt)
  • 1 large can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 cups white wine
  • 5 cups fish stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pound clams, scrubbed
  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed, debearded
  • 1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound scallops
  • 1 1/2 pounds assorted firm-fleshed fish fillets, we used cod, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Fresh chopped parsley

Garlic Bread-
  • Fresh Italian bread, cut in half
  • Butter
  • Olive Oil
  • 4-5 cloves chopped garlic
  • Fresh chopped parsley
  • Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes

Some ingredients I didn’t use that might be good additions: fennel (sautéed with the onions), capers, halibut (instead of cod though pricier), fresh tomatoes instead of canned, and some marscapone cheese in the sauce for a creamier flavor. Celery is optional.

Directions

Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, shallots, and salt and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and saute 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato and anchovy paste.

Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, fish stock and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.

If your fish is thick like ours was, you should put it in first. Keep in mind none of the fish will take long to cook.

After 2 minutes or so, add the clams and mussels to the cooking liquid. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels begin to open, about 5 minutes.

Add the shrimp and scallops. Simmer gently until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through, and the clams are completely open, stirring gently, about 5 minutes longer (discard any clams and mussels that do not open).

Optional: Add a tbsp of butter for a nice finish.

Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle fresh parsley on top.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve.

Garlic Bread:

Simply place the butter, garlic, oil and parsley in a small pot and heat on medium. Don’t bring to a boil or simmer. You just want the garlic flavor to flavor the butter and oil.

Spread on the garlic bread, add salt and pepper, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown. An optional treat: add some fresh mozzarella!

Tri Colore Matzo Balls

A staple dish for Jews round the world is matzo ball soup. When I was in Venice I managed to find a Jewish quarter with a little deli that made some of the best matzo ball soup I’ve ever had! It’s comforting and oddly delicious. My family makes it every year for different holidays but always on Passover for our Seder. This year we decided to try something slightly different and put an Italian twist on the matzo balls by making them red, white and green, in true “Jewtalian” spirit. These are not your traditional balls.

A word of advice, when making as many balls as we did, don’t try to cook them in one pot because they won’t cook properly and fluff up like they should. That’s what we get for drinking the manischewitz wine before the Seder… They were still delicious even though they weren’t as fluffy as some might like- these would be considered sinkers, not floaters.

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Photos Courtesy of Snap Photography

You can follow the instructions on the box as we did and make the easy adjustments to get the pretty colors and added flavor of the tri colore matzo balls. I thought the red ones in particular had great flavor! We made one batch per color, roughly 63 matzo balls in total.

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Instructions for color:

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Verde (Green)
-Place a cup or so of fresh baby spinach, a bunch of parsley and a small garlic clove in a blender with a dash of olive oil. Strain he liquid out using a cheese cloth and reserve to use instead of water in the next step. Continue per the instructions above and add a dash of onion powder.

Rosso (Red)
-Add 2 tablespoons red tomato paste, garlic powder and onion powder to original recipe.

Bianco (White)
-Follow instructions on the box.

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After you cook your matzo balls put them in a big bowl of home made chicken soup and serve topped with fresh parsley. Enjoy!!

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And here is a photo of our beautiful Seder tabled decorated by mom:

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Lasagna Soup

If you love lasagna, then you will love this recipe. My friend at work, Marie, showed me a new recipe from Bobby Deen (Paula Deen’s son who is trying to put a healthier twist on Paula’s meals). “Lasagna soup” sounds very strange and I was hesitant at first but it tastes amazing; it’s lasagna in a bowl with half the amount of cheese and pasta. You lose out on calories, but NOT on flavor. I’m so happy she turned me on to this recipe. I have a feeling I will be making it many, many times in the future.

Here is the link to Bobby’s recipe, which of course I slightly altered. I am not a fan of green pepper so I substituted with fresh finocchio. I added red wine because I would add it to my gravy I use in lasagna and I decided to top the dish with cheese and broil it rather than stir it in for a nice bubbly crust.

INGREDIENTS:

  • Italian Chicken Sausage, 2 links or about 1 lb (Whole foods makes an excellent one where you can read and understand all ingredients. Be careful when buying sausage, pay attention to the ingredients b/c it can get gross)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • Finocchio (few stalks)
  • Fresh basil
  • Parmesan Cheese, few tablespoons
  • Part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • Part-skim t ricotta, 1 large spoonful
  • 4 whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • Tomato Puree (San Marzano tomatoes are the best, you can find them at Whole Foods)
  • Diced Tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup Italian red wine

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick saucepot or Dutch oven. Add the sausage, onion, bell pepper, and garlic.

Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is crumbled and browned, 8 – 10 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

Add the broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, more salt, and crushed red pepper. I also added the red wine I was drinking. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors are blended, about 20 minutes.

Bring to a boil again when you are ready to add the noodles. Break the noodles in small enough pieces so they will fit on your spoon. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the soup thickens slightly and the noodles are tender, 10 – 12 minutes. I added a few squirts of tomato paste to thicken it a bit more.

Remove from the heat; stir in the ricotta. Turn your oven broiler on.

Spoon the soup into oven safe bowls and top with parmesan and mozzarella. Bake until the cheese bubbles, sprinkle with fresh chopped basil and serve.

Healthy, Hearty, Potato, Leek & Spinach Soup

When it gets cold, who doesn’t love a big bowl of hot soup?  Well, Kyle. He detests soup which is so upsetting to this cook because I would make it almost every night in the winter if he would eat it!  Soup is easy to make, hearty and can be very healthy.  There are really just two soups he will eat, Potato-Leek and New England Clam Chowder.  Usually these soups are heavy with cream and high in fat.  In order to satisfy our healthier diets, I’ve created a very healthy recipe for Potato Leek soup with no bacon, cream or butter, and this time I added spinach for some extra nutrients and a pretty green color.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 leeks
  • 1/2 of a sweet onion
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup (roughly) of skim milk
  • Box of chicken or vegetable stock
  • Roughly 1 bag potatoes, diced
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Handful of spinach
  • Fresh chopped parsley

Directions

  1. In a large soup pot over medium heat, saute chopped leeks, garlic, onion in olive oil until translucent. (You don’t have to waste time finely chopping the ingredients as you will puree them later.) Add salt & pepper and fresh parsley.  I like a lot of fresh cracked black pepper in this recipe for a nice spice.  You could also consider white pepper for better coloring in the soup.
  2. Add about 3/4 of your diced potatoes leaving some on the side for later.  Stir, season and let cook for 3-5 minutes.  Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.  You can also add the big green stalks from the leeks into the soup to add more flavor to your broth.
  3. Add milk, reduce the heat to summer and cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Then add the spinach.
  4. Remove the green stalks. Using a hand blender puree the soup until all chunks are gone.  Pureing the potatoes will help thicken the broth and give it that creamy texture without all the calories.
  5. Add the remaining diced potatoes you set aside for a chunky, hearty soup.  Simmer the soup until potatoes are cooked through.  Serve with chives or fresh chopped parsley and/or a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

I have also made this soup with broccoli, adding some during the pure process and some at the end for extra chunks.  If you like a cheesy broccoli soup and want a healthier version, try it!

Shabbat Zuppa di Pesce

Tonight we went to my parents for a family dinner and the Jewtalians enjoyed a delicious Italian meal; zuppa di pesce, of sorts.

Mom bought all sorts of fish and you can feel free to select your favorites.

Ingredients

  • Garlic
  • Shallots
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Can San Marzano tomatoes (chopped or whole)
  • Imported Italian Linguine
  • Mussels
  • 1 Lobster Tail
  • Shrimp
  • Clams
  • Scallops
  • Sole

Instructions

  1. Saute garlic, shallots, parsley and red pepper flakes in olive oil.
  2. Add in chopped tomatoes, season with S&P.
  3. Begin adding fish in order of cook time. We especially don’t want to over cook the lobster or shrimp or it will get chewy.
  4. When you put the mussels and clams in, put a lid on the pan to steam them for a few minutes. If any shells do not open, throw them out.
  5. Top with parmesan cheese and serve!