Vegetable soup with pasta and beans provides comfort. (Kate Lawson / The Detroit News)
I had just settled in at my sister’s new home on the shore of Lake Erie, and was enjoying a cocktail and the view of downtown Cleveland when our other sister called to tell us that our father had had a heart attack and was in the hospital. We immediately made plans to drive to Dayton early the next day.
Some people grab a suitcase and pile in the clothes to leave town, but our first move was to open the pantry and refrigerator and assess what vittles we could take on our trip. People have to eat, after all, and since we both were going to be in caregiver mode and are good cooks we figured we could use up whatever would go bad in our absence.
There were some carrots, green beans and a large red bell pepper along with a half a large onion in the crisper. We tossed those into a cooler along with a can of tomatoes, cannelini beans and chicken broth. We found a bottle of unopened wine, a box of crackers and some cheese, along with some yogurt and granola for our breakfasts, and the next morning we were off to our hometown.
That evening, after we’d returned from the hospital, I pulled out the soup pot, the cutting board and a knife and started chopping. I thought about the old folk story about stone soup as I sauteed the veggies in some olive oil and then added the tomatoes along with their liquid, some extra water, a large splash of wine and some seasonings and let the whole thing simmer while we made plans for the next few days. Later, I added cooked pasta shells and cannellini beans. Our dinner that night after a long day at the hospital was a bowl of comfort and crackers, and my sister raved about my concoction (even though we were both too tired to chew). This was by no means a gourmet soup, but my sis and I both agreed that, considering the circumstances, it was the best soup we’d ever had.
On the Road Vegetable Soup
This is by no means a gourmet soup, but makes good use of vegetables. Use any pasta or beans available. Fresh herbs are welcome; in a pinch use dried.
5-6 large, carrots, peeled and medium sliced
1/2 pound green beans, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, slivered
1/2 large onion, cut into small wedges
1 large can chopped tomatoes with liquid plus additonal can of water
4 cups chicken broth
1 can (15-19 ounces) canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 pound small shaped cooked pasta (shells, tubetti or elbows)
Large handful of fresh baby spinach, kale or basil leaves
Italian season (basil, oregano, marjoram or whatever is on hand)
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in large soup pot. Add carrots, green beans, bell pepper garlic and onion and cook over low heat to soften. When carrots are slightly tender, add tomatoes with liquid, chicken broth, seasonings and additional water. Cook over medium heat and let simmer for an hour or so until vegetables are tender and broth is flavorful. Meanwhile, cook pasta. Add cooked pasta and beans along with greens to pot and let simmer for a few minutes to heat through. Adjust seasonings. Serves 4.