During December I often find myself wanting a hot nutritious dinner but having little time to prepare one. There are so many evenings out in December, running to meetings and special seasonal events. Often there are festive refreshments at these events but to leave home hungry is to risk over-indulging in calorie intensive holiday specialties. December can be hectic and when times are hectic a hot healthy dinner, especially one on the light side, can feel absolutely healing.
I cut something from the newspaper many years ago that can quickly and easily meet the requirements for those occasions. It is a recipe for Italian Supper Soup. It is a great anchor for a quick dinner. It can be prepared fairly quickly and, for the most part, in advance, with only a few steps to complete it at the last minute. It really dresses up a quick sandwich or salad or other weekday dinner fare, or it can stand alone when you want something nutritious to take the edge off your hunger before going out to a spread of rich holiday foods.
My children started calling it Christmas Soup several years ago, because of the red chunks of tomato and green leaves of spinach floating in the broth. It does offer a hint of festive color while it helps to warmly sustain us through the buildup and busyness of the season.
Italian Supper Soup
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14-ounce) cans vegetable broth
2 (16-ounce) cans cannellini beans or other white beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can peeled tomatoes, crushed or chopped
½ cup tiny pasta, like orzo (or 1 cup larger pasta, like penne)
¼ cup fresh basil leaves, sliced into strips
2 – 3 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed and roughly chopped
Heat the olive oil in a 4 quart soup pot. Add chopped onions and garlic and sauté until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the vegetable broth, white beans and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Cook pasta until it is almost tender. Rinse, drain and set aside.
(At this point the soup and pasta can be refrigerated until you are ready to assemble the meal.)
If the soup has been set aside bring it back to a simmer. Add the pasta and then stir in the basil and spinach, cooking just until the spinach has wilted and turned a bright green. Serve immediately. Makes 4 – 6 servings.