Every year since my oldest child was a baby, my family has attended Lenten Soup Suppers at our church. The purpose of the gathering is to gather around a common table with other parishioners to share a simple supper of vegetarian soup and bread. But it means so much more to my family. We have a chance to visit with people we don’t get to see very often. Our children learn about respect, manners, and politeness. We build a little community for those six Fridays. Our children are exposed to new foods that they might not normally try.
The enthusiasm of the participants always makes me smile. We had a priest who came every week, and joyously ate a small bowl of every kind of soup. He would recommend one soup or another as being his favorite, but would quickly say they were all good. Because they were! There’s rarely much soup left over, but we always have enough.
A few years ago, I took over running these suppers, because they’re such an important part of our family’s experience of Lent – I just didn’t want to see them die off for lack of leadership. So, every week, I make a pot of vegetarian soup and a batch of some kind of bread, and others sign up to do the same. I try to bring a different pot every week. This soup is always in the rotation.
What you need:
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1 c. chopped onion
- 3 carrots, peeled and sliced (about 1 c.)
- 1 c. chopped celery
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 (15 oz.) cans of beans (I like to use a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors for visual interest – in my experience, there is no bad combination)
- 1 T. Italian seasoning
- 1/8 t. red pepper flakes
- 1/2 t. dried rosemary
- 1 t. salt
- 1 c. broccoli (or shredded cabbage, chopped squash, or cubed eggplant)
- 4 c. diced tomatoes (2 16 oz. cans, or fresh)
- 1 large baking potato, cubed (about 1 c.)
- 1 c. frozen green beans or peas
- 6 c. vegetable stock or water (store-bought or homemade)
- 1 1/2 c. alphabet pasta, rice, or barley
- freshly ground black pepper, for serving
- grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
- pesto, for serving
- cutting board and chef’s knife
- colander for draining beans
- measuring cups and spoons
- large (8 qt.) stockpot with lid OR nonstick skillet AND large crockpot
Time: About 20 minutes prep time. About 45-60 minutes (mostly unattended) cooking time. If using the slow cooker, 8 hours entirely unattended cooking time.
Serves: A large crowd, usually with leftovers!
Multiplying the recipe: This makes a big pot – you’d have to use a separate pot for each batch.
In a stockpot or nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the aromatics (onion, carrots, celery, and garlic) and turn the heat down to just below medium. Put the lid on and “sweat” the vegetables for about 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally – this base will provide much of the flavor base for the soup.
If using a crockpot to continue, transfer the vegetables to it now. If using a stockpot, simply add the remaining ingredients as follows. Stir in the beans, seasonings, the remaining vegetables, liquid, and starches. (Reserve the cracked pepper, Parmesan, and pesto for serving.) In the stockpot, cook for 35-45 minutes, until vegetables are tender and starch is cooked. In the crockpot, set heat to low and cook for 8 hours. When finished, serve with a nice crusty bread alongside and cracked pepper, Parmesan, and a spoonful of pesto on top.