Vegetable soup always reminds me of my mother-in-law. This is because she used to feed her family “Saturday Soup,” so named because she made it on Saturdays, using Campbell’s vegetable soup as a base and adding leftovers from the week’s meals. Bette’s kids ate the soup happily, oblivious to the fact that it contained finely chopped brisket from Tuesday’s dinner, or the spaghetti from Thursday’s.
But when her kids grew up and spouses got involved, Bette’s Saturday Soup fell into disfavor. My brother-in-law, Scott, found a chunk of hot dog with teeth marks on it floating in his bowl. He thought this was taking the food recycling thing a little too far, and he banned Saturday Soup. He was sure it was toxic, that it might impede his kids’ neurological development, if it didn’t just, you know, kill them outright.
Instead of Saturday Soup, I often make some variation of this recipe, which is a bit like Campbell’s cousin, but it’s much better. You can add leftovers to it if you like, a la Bette, like roasted chicken or bits of meat loaf. Just hold off on the semi-chewed hot dogs.
(Yield: about 12 cups)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, medium-diced
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 parsnip, diced
½ head Savoy cabbage, shredded
1 zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
28-ounce can tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
1 15-ounce can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 quarts chicken stock
½ cup dry white wine
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
1. In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about ten minutes. Add the carrots, celery and parsnip and cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes. Add the cabbage and zucchini and cook, stirring, for two minutes. Add the garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and cook for one minute.
2. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock and wine and bring the soup to a simmer. Cook, partially covered, until the soup is slightly reduced and the flavors have blended, about 45 minutes. Correct the seasoning and serve the soup with cheese on the side.