So my friend Cass told me about this awesome soup recipe, which I knew I had to try as it's like Daddy's beanstroni but with spinach and cheese, which makes everything better, and made up almost entirely of things that were already in my pantry. When I picked the theme for AVF #2, I immediately thought of the recipe, and it turns out this also goes along nicely with another blogging event, No Croutons Required, co-sponsored by vegetarian foodbloggers Holler of Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen. I hope they'll forgive me for double-submitting a recipe to take advantage of their soup theme!
The key to this soup is advanced preparation. It's really easy if you have everything ready to go before you start, and then you can just sit back and relax while it simmers away. I started by putting my water on to boil for the pasta, then I dumped my two cans of garbanzo beans and a can of dark red kidney beans into the strainer, rinsed them, and made sure they were fully drained. The recipe calls for a small handful of chopped basil, which is good because once I tore away the brown bits from my basil, which admittedly I should have used sooner, it really only was a small handful!
Once that was ready to go, the water was boiling, so it was time for pasta. The recipe says to use ditalini, but I think rigatoni or penne would work, and I went with mostaccoli since I happened to have some on hand. You want a cup cooked, and make sure it's cooked only to al dente (the recipe was "hard" al dente, but I was afraid of crunchy pasta and mine turned out great). Heat a tablespoon of olive oil (infused if you have it, I just used extra virgin) over medium-ish heat in your soup pot. Toss in your drained beans, a bay leaf, the basil, salt and pepper to taste, and a dash of cayenne. Cook briefly (I just went with the time it took to open my can of tomatoes and get the broth in position to go). Add a can of diced tomatoes (I drained slightly but I wouldn't next time), two cans veggie broth, and two cans water. Bring to a boil. For me, this took a while, and I had to cover the pot and crank up the heat.
By now, your pasta's probably cooked. I just dumped it in the same strainer I had used for the beans and gave it a good shake to get the water out. You want to simmer the soup for twenty minutes once it hits the boiling point, so you can walk away. I put the heat all the way back down to medium and it stayed simmering nicely with the lid off. I thought the soup would be too watery/liquidy, but some of it boils off, and really it could use more liquid for the amount of solid stuff involved. You want to be careful when serving not to put too much liquid in each bowl or you'll run out!
When 20 minutes were almost up, I fished the bay leaf out of the pot and then threw a bag of fresh (organic) baby spinach on top of the pasta in the strainer, picking out the bad leaves, and gave it a good rinse. Once everything was nice and drained, I tossed pasta and spinach in with the soup and added 3/4 cup grated Parmesan. Okay, maybe it was more like a cup. It does kind of like to clump together, so don't stir too vigourously or it'll all cling to the spoon. Cook until the spinach is just wilted but still retains a nice bold colour, which is a minute or two. Serve with a little more grated parm on top. Mm!
Don't forget, the deadline for AVF is coming up in a couple of weeks! Get those posts of vegetarian soups, stews, chilis, hot pots, etc up by February 22nd and let me know where they are to be included in the round-up.