12 June 2009

Starry Pasta Soup

If you're one of those people whose kids beg for Campbell's Chicken n' Stars or Alphabet soup, but you just can't bring yourself to go there, this post is for you. If you're like my heroes Mark Bittman and Alice Waters and you have wholesome ingredients washed and prepped in your fridge and a pantry full of delicious, high-quality staples, look away.

If you've ever found yourself on a Friday night, home alone with little ones while nursing a hot water bottle and popping Midol, letting your six-year-old watch Avatar for the 10th time that day, letting your four-year-old play Starfall over and over again, and then at 8 p.m. realizing no one's had dinner yet, or if you've withdrawn from human contact and descended in to agoraphobia with a laptop standing in for a best friend and can't leave the house to shop, or if you've realized you can only spend seven dollars in the next week on groceries or you'll be living in your mother-in-law's basement with your five children come September, and then your six-year-old starts rummaging through the cupboards saying, "I wish we had soup," and you know it's because she's only eaten goldfish crackers all day and is craving something healthy and warm, this recipe's for you.

On the other hand, if you have beautifully organized crocks of pre-cooked organic beans and brown rice in your fridge ready for a quick little salad or soup in a snap, or if you have blocks of Valrohna chocolate dry-packed in storage in case you need some brownies in a trice and were caught unprepared, look away.

This soup is my answer to Campbell's and other canned soups (which my kids occasionally ask for, but will rarely actually eat). It takes about five minutes to prep and fifteen to cook. It uses cheap, cheap ingredients (look away, Alice Waters) that I almost always have on hand, even when I've hit the dregs of the pantry and my wallet, and uses canned and dry goods, minus the awful throat-closing corn syrup after-taste or soggy, mushy vegetables and pasta of said Campbell's soup.

It's inspired by a caldo, but is vegetarian, and could be gussied up with some oregano or chiles, basil or grated parmesan, but I think tastes great and homey with just the salt, onion and tomato savory-ness.

Starry Pasta Soup

2 t. butter
2 t. olive oil
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1 minced garlic clove
1 small yellow crookneck squash, diced
1/4 c. canned red beans
1/4 c. star pasta
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
3 c. water
2 T. heavy cream
salt to taste

*Gently soften onion and garlic over medium heat for two or three minutes.
*Turn heat to medium high and add pasta and squash until a light browning appears.
*Add water, tomato sauce and beans and give it a stir.
*Turn up heat until soup is at a rolling boil.
*Continue at this heat for ten minutes, stirring every minute or two, making sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. (You can adjust cooking time so squash and pasta have the bite you like, which may be more or less al dente then my timing calls for.)
*Remove from heat, stir in cream, and adjust salt level to taste.


Marni C. said...

I really, really want to eat this soup right now.

And I wish that you were here!



Alice Dubiel said...

This is lovely, makes me hungry and is way more work than I used to do. The heavy investment was making the chicken stock, which I do from chicken carcasses (boil 2hrs and strain and freeze). Then took that and added pasta. I didn't have those cute stars, only alphabet, but they were in colors. Your children are blessed. I wish you were here, too.

Luisa said...