It never fails: I spot a new soup at the grocery store, and I think this will be the one. The one that tastes good, the one that’s easy to transport to work, the one that I can keep in my pantry for the inevitable day in winter when I have a cold and no energy to cook.
This time Dole’s Garden Soups caught my attention. I slipped the ready-to-eat soup-in-a-box into my cart. And I was again disappointed. Yes, they heat up in minutes in the microwave (though they can’t be heated in their container making them less convenient for work). The sweet corn variety isn’t bad, though the super smooth texture and overly sweet flavor gives it an institutional quality. And the Southwestern black bean and corn flavor is just weird. It looks like chocolate milk and instead of tasting like black beans or corn, it tastes like lime juice.
The Dole soups are better than some I’ve tried. They’re relatively low in calories, have a bit of fiber and are lower in sodium than most processed soups. But my point is I need a mind adjustment when it comes to soup.
Soup is truly one of the easiest dishes you can make. All you need is liquid and some stuff to put in it. In less than 30 minutes, you can turn just about anything you have in your pantry and refrigerator into something that tastes better — and is healthier — than what you can get in a can.
The recipe below is just one example. Use it as a formula the next time you’re craving soup.
And the next time I’m tempted by one of the processed soups at the market, I’m just picking up cans of chicken broth and beans and a package of noodles or pasta. I know I’ll be much happier with those results.
TORTELLINI AND WHITE BEAN SOUP
Makes 6 servings
Use this recipe as a jumping off point. If you have zucchini or summer squash, add it. Add fresh chopped tomatoes or a can of diced tomatoes with its liquid. Throw in any herbs from the garden. Omit the meat and double the beans. Your imagination is the only limit to this soup.
2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil or canola oil
4 ounces bacon or pancetta, diced or 4 ounces mild Italian sausage, casings removed
1 large onion finely diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch Swiss chard, stemmed, chopped
1 can (15 ounces) cannellini, garbanzo, navy or great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 box (48 ounces) low-salt or unsalted chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
Salt and pepper to taste
9 ounces fresh or frozen cheese-filled tortellini
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Heat oil in a heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp. Add onion and carrot. Cook until beginning to soften, about 5 to 8 minutes. Add garlic. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chard, beans, broth and water. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Add tortellini. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning, if necessary.
Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with Parmesan, if desired.