Italian Garden Vegetable Soup with Rice

Well, the drizzly grayness continues . . .  so, more soup for you!

I flipped through the New England Soup Factory Cookbook for inspiration and settled upon a hearty looking soup with lots of tomatoes, beans and rice. The author, Marjorie Drucker, says that the key to the soup is the mix of diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and tomato juice. I didn’t have all the ingredients the recipe called for (no stock, no fresh basil, no zucchini or yellow squash), but I made do with what I had (mixed frozen vegetables and dried oregano) and the results were very good: a rich tomato-ey base, lightly thickened with rice, chunky with beans and chopped vegetables.

You need a big pot for this soup. This overflowed my favorite soup pot (a 6.5 quart enameled cast iron Dutch oven) and I had to transfer some of the soup to a saucepan (2 quart? 3 quart? I’m not sure). Both pots ended up being filled almost to the brim with soup.

Italian Garden Vegetable Soup with Rice
Adapted from The New England Soup Factory Cookbook. I didn’t have the zucchini, yellow squash, peas or basil called for by the recipe, so I used 1 tsp. of dried oregano and 2 cups of frozen vegetable mix (corn, carrots, string beans, lima beans and peas). Instead of using a mix of chick peas and kidney beans, I used all chick peas.

In a really, really large soup pot, saute the onions, celery, carrots and garlic in olive oil for 5-7 minutes, stirring often:
3 Tbl. olive oil
large onion (the recipe called for one Spanish onion, but I used two medium Vidalias), chopped
6 carrots, sliced (I used a whole pound, which was 7 medium carrots)
4 cloves garlic, minced

Add the tomatoes, water beans and bay leaves:
29 ounces diced tomatoes (1 large can or 2 regular cans)
20 ounces ground or crushed tomatoes (1 large can)
12 cups stock (I just used water, plus the liquid from the canned chickpeas)
4 cups tomato juice (I used “vegetable juice,” which is tomato juice flavored with other vegetables, but you can also use a 6 ounce can of tomato paste plus 3 cups of water)
29 ounces canned chickpeas (1 large can, the original recipe called for a regular can of chickpeas and another can of kidney beans)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. oregano (this was my addition because I didn’t have the basil called for in the recipe)

Simmer the soup for a half hour, then add the rice and simmer for another 15 minutes, or until the rice is tender:
4 zucchini/yellow squash, diced (I didn’t have this, so I skipped it)
1/3 cup rice (I used 1/2 cup of Aborio rice)

Add the frozen vegetables and heat through:
1/2 cup frozen peas (I used 2 cups of vegetable mix, with corn, peas, carrots, lima beans and string beans)
1/2 bunch basil (I didn’t have this, so I skipped it in favor or some dried oregano, which I added earlier in the cooking process)
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar (I skipped this because the soup tasted fine without it)
salt, pepper (the soup seemed seasoned perfectly as it was, so I didn’t add any additional salt or pepper)

The recipe says that this makes 10-12 servings, but I think that it will serve closer to 15-20. When you reheat leftover (and there will be leftovers unless you have a really big family) the rice dissolves and thickens the soup a bit, giving it a velvety texture.

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