Oh, this soup made me so happy. Only for the few brief moments when I was allowed to directly interact with it (aka cooking and eating it), but every little bit helps when you’re bogged down my professional growth plans, exams, final papers, take-home finals, portfolios, and being sick on top of it. The illness was the catalyst for the soup. Besides a little extra sleep and vitamin C, soup was the only remaining attack-strategy I could summon. If you read my previous post, you will know I was planning on making something fool-proof, one of my old standby recipes that I have up my sleeve which can always be counted on to satisfy (I’ve been holding out on you, but I’ll reveal those secrets eventually).
Instead, I embarked on a massive experiment that had optimal results. This was particularly risky because this is ultimately a modified version of my mom’s vegetable soup with some pasta added. My mom happens to make the most wonderful vegetable soup, and I was most likely setting myself up for disappointment, as I was innately expecting a similar flavor. By some miracle of the forces that be, the soup did indeed resemble my mom’s soup in flavor. There is a subtle, but crucial distinction between a bunch of ingredients swimming together in a pot and an actual soup, where a multitude of ingredients come together as a whole. You’re not thinking about the components as you scoop up each spoonful because the ingredients take on a group identity. This recipe epitomizes just such a magical merger.
1 small onion, diced
3 carrots, diced
1 plump garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
hot sauce or hot pepper flakes to taste
2-14 oz. cans reduced chicken broth (you may want a third on reserve)
1-14 oz. can diced tomatoes (don’t drain)
½ to 2/3 cup orzo pasta
2 small zucchini, chopped (or one large)
small crown of broccoli, chopped (don’t worry about keeping it in florets)
5 small mushrooms, quartered and sliced
Optional garnish: baby spinach, cheese (parmesan, mozzarella, feta all work)
§ In a soup pot, sauté onion, carrots, and garlic in olive oil over medium to medium-high heat, until they start to soften (8-10 minutes). Season with salt and pepper.
§ Add 2 cans of broth, can of diced tomatoes, dried herbs, and hot sauce. Bring mixture to a gentle boil.
§ Reduce to a simmer. Add orzo, cook, stirring occasionally to prevent pasta from sticking to the bottom. And cook for about 8-10 minutes. It will not be fully cooked.
§ Add the zucchini, broccoli, and mushrooms. Let the soup simmer gently for about 15-30 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender. Stir occasionally and check for seasonings, adding more if needed. If the soup is too thick, add a little more broth or water (I probably added an extra ¾ of a cup, but this will depend on how much pasta you use).
§ To serve, put a handful of baby spinach in the bottom of the bowl and pour soup over it. Stir so it wilts and finish with cheese, if desired.
§ When reheating soup, you may want to add a tablespoon or two of broth or water to thin it out, but this is purely based on preference.
Comments: I really loved this meal, and now that I have the skeleton down, I can use the basic foundation for other delicious soups. In the future, I might add more vegetables; it could definitely handle more zucchini, more carrots. Celery would be nice; peas, cabbage, green beans, anything would do. Actually, with a lot of extra vegetables, the pasta could be eliminated all together, but I think that the starch released by the pasta adds a nice body to the soup. However, I don’t really know what to call this soup. It’s not a chicken soup, because it has no actual chicken in it. It’s loaded with vegetables, but it’s not a vegetable soup, because it’s made with chicken stock and tons of pasta. So the soup will remain nameless, but lovely nonetheless.