Between catching a cold, finding out my husband has high cholesterol and battling frigid winter temperatures on my walk to work, a steaming pot of soup just seemed like a good idea. Over the past six months, I’ve made soup my mission. Maybe I’m watching too much Top Chef, or maybe it’s my obsession with the soup chapter in Martha Stewart’s recent Cooking School (published in 2008) but my blender is weary from purees and my sauté pans have a permanent smell of celery, carrots and onion. Not necessarily bad things.
Point: I love making soup.
My most recent soup (to address the cold and cholesterol) is a variation of a recipe found in Giada De Laurentiis’ Everyday Pasta. Italian White Bean, Pancetta and Tortellini soup is, in Giada’s words, a twist on the traditional tortellini en brodo. Since cholesterol is found in many animal products, my version adds a vegetarian twist to her…twist.
I’ve made Giada’s tortellini soup with and without the pancetta. Granted, the original meaty version is delicious and yeah, that salty, chewy pancetta is a nice touch, I’ve found that the soup doesn’t suffer without it. And head this advice- do not try to substitute veggie bacon (or other veggie versions of meat) for pancetta. The consistency of that stuff once you sink it in soup is grainy, and the saltiness it adds doesn’t make up for that.
And here’s another tip -- make sure your swiss chard is very clean and well chopped, with the major purple veins removed. To do this: wash it well, and then lay each piece down on your cutting board, and run your knife along the center of each leaf down each side of the purple rib, removing it completely and discarding it. Then continue chopping the leaves into squares or strips. Sometimes you can rip the veins out, but cutting it out makes for more uniform pieces.
I hope you enjoy this flavorful soup as much as we did. And here’s your health!
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 large shallots, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced (a handful of baby carrots work in a pinch)
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1-15 ounce can cannellini beans or great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch of Swiss chard, chopped
7 cups vegetable broth
9 ounces (or one box) spinach tortellini
In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and carrot and cook until the vegetables are soft and starting to change color. Add the garlic, beans, and let cook until the beans begin to break down, just a little (the looseness of the beans adds a nice thickness to your soup when it’s finished). Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the Swiss chard and let it wilt (about 3 minutes).
Add the tortellini and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the tortellini are tender.