I first discovered this soup in Giada’s Family Dinners, by Giada de Laurentiis of Food Network fame. Like most Italian dishes, this soup is iconic. Since discovering it, I have noticed that every Italian cookbook I own has a version of this simple pantry meal. If you have a can of kidney beans, a litre of chicken stock, a few handfuls of pasta and maybe some odds and ends, you have this soup ready in 30 minutes. Unlike so many other “mixed foods” that she rejects, Autumn gobbled this soup up at its first offering and has not questioned it since. I love this soup for its simplicity, but, also because the shape of the pasta facilitates the consumption of kidney beans as the large shapes scoop up the semi-pureed soup, making it hard for them to completely avoid the beans. Hence, “Bucket Soup”. I guess they do notice when we try to trick them……
This soup is very flexible. Use whatever beans you have on hand and whatever pasta. Throw in some greens, if you have them. I have even added cooked wheat berries and they got scooped up by the pasta and added some nice texture; no one even noticed they were in there!
1 medium onion, diced (you could use red or white)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs of thyme (tied in a bundle), 1 sprig of rosemary (If you don’t have fresh, use a pinch of dried. However, these herbs last forever in the fridge and you should always have them on hand in soup season.)
1 parmesan cheese rind (See my rant in the tomato soup post. Keep a stash of these stored in the freezer. Save the rind after you grate the cheese, or, you can purchase them at Whole Foods in the cheese department.)
1 cerery stalk and 1 carrot, peeled and finely diced (optional)
1 litre of chicken stock, approximately
2-15 ounce cans or 1-25 ounce can Kidney Beans (feel free to substitute white kidney beans, which are called cannellini, or garbanzo beans)-strained and rinsed.
1 1/2 cups whole wheat and kid friendly pasta (Autumn calls this Bucket Soup because I use a pasta called Chiocciole that looks like a ram’s horn. I only buy whole wheat pasta made by Bionature)
1. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and or butter in large heavy soup pot on medium-low, add onions, garlic, herbs. Give it a stir and cover for 5-10 minute (this will force the water out of the onion). Remove lid and add a pinch of salt, pepper, celery and carrot, if using. Give a toss and let cook a few minutes. The aromatics should not be browning, but softening.
2. Add some of the chicken stock, parmesan cheese rind and beans. Let simmer very low for about 10 minutes. REMOVE: parmesan cheese rind, fresh herbs and bay leaf. Stick immersion blender into soup and puree so about a third of the soup is pureed, or perform with a blender.
3. With the soup on a low simmer, add the pasta and stir. Evaluate chicken stock level and determine if you need more. I like my soup on the chucky side so I lean for a thicker soup. Simmer until the pasta is al dente. The pasta will continue to cook in the soup as it sits, getting mushier by the minute.
Taste for salt and pepper. Give the pot a squeeze of lemon, if you have it or a splash of balsamic vinegar, if you like it.
For the kids: serve with grated cheese on top and a grilled cheese sandwich or bread for dipping into soup.