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Soup for sniffly times and spring

October 10, 2010

I’m recovering from a severe bout of the sniffles (the kind initiated by a virus, not the loved-one-in-my-life variety), and so I’ve been quite lazy about my cooking. Let’s not count baking, which I always find an excuse for when I’m sick, and then feel guilty eating it. Anyway, it was time for a change from the brothy soba noodle soup, and this may or may not have anything to do with drowning myself in Italian cookbook-age and Jamie Oliver recipes the last two days. I also happened to have a cornucopia of non-Asian leafy greens begging to be eaten in the garden, all too old and spicy for a salad, all going to seed and flowering and being pretty and alluring.

L-R, top to bottom: Kale (red Russsian), flat parsley, cress (American upland), snow peas, mizuna, chopped spring onions (“scallions” or “green onions” as the Americans would call them!).

Of course, you can use any greens you like and have on hand, indeed, any vegetables (except those awful corn/carrot/pea frozen mixes – you have been warned! Other frozen mixes are fine though) will work. Next time I’m going to slice up some fennel bulb, paper thin, and just drape it over the top. Since it’s spring, I felt I needed lots of green, springy veges, and some zing, which was provided nicely by some home made pesto that was super lemony and some tomato stuff. The combination was perfect.

Another nice variation was placing some uncooked greenery on top, which made the soup a lot more refreshing and suitable for slurping on a sunny day (not that it is today, sadly). I used a super cute pasta shape labelled ditalini rigati, which is ideal for use in soups, but you can break up some spaghetti, use macaroni or spirals or bows. If you find the shape as charming as I did, you can pick this shape up (along with many others) at the Mediterranean Food Company in Christchurch. Like many of my one pot meals, I stuffed this soup full of stuff so it was an easy meal in a bowl, without any need for bread. Half the packet of ditalini rigati went in.

I feel like I’m making this sound more complicated than it needs to be though. Just wait until you see the “recipe” though. This can be mixed and matched any which way, as long as you have some greens and veges, some pesto, some pasta, some good vegetable stock, and a shot of tomato, wine vinegar or lemon.

Spring-ready one pot soup

serves 2 as a complete meal

  • about 500ml good vegetable stock (I use home made bouillon + water), plus about 500ml water
  • about 200g – 250g small pasta shapes such as macaroni, spirals or bows (I used ditalini rigati) or broken up spaghetti
  • 2 generous handfuls of spring-y vegetables/greens and some tender leaf herbs/alliums like parsley, spring onion, chives, basil or oregano. Tear large leaves up, and chop solid veges into small cubes or matchsticks. Reserve some tender leafy greens or herbs for serving.
  • a few Tablespoons chopped tomato, puree, passata, or a little less paste, but not tomato sauce. If you have none floating around, substitute some lemon juice or wine vinegar
  • about 2 Tbs pesto or finely grated parmesan
  • optional: 1/2 can’s worth cooked beans or lentils, drained
  • salt and pepper to taste, plus a drizzle of olive oil to serve

Bring pasta, stock and water to an enthusiastic boil in a medium large saucepan or wok. Dislodge any sticking to the pan. Add tomato, beans if using, and any solid veges like carrots, or tough leaves like kale, once boiling. Reduce heat to medium low. Once pasta is cooked (try some to test), season further to taste (keep in mind you’ll be adding pesto, which has salt in), and add herbs and green leafy veges. Serve immediately, top with a dollop of pesto, olive oil and any reserved fresh herbs or greens. Gently stir the pesto through the soup to infuse with flavour. Slurp away!

If making this for one, you can eat it straight out of the pot to save washing more dishes. Just don’t tell your mother.

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