Oven Baked Vegetable Soup

IMG_2035It took me a long time to learn to make a good soup. A long. Long. Time. For years, the soups I made were flavorless and disappointing. I had no idea what I was doing wrong, but it didn’t seem like soup could really be that complicated. Turns out, soup isn’t that complicated, but you do have to pay attention and follow a few simple rules. And you also need patience. Once I figured this out, I was on my way to making all kinds of simple, but delicious and nourishing soup combinations. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Use stock, never water. Homemade stock is always better than what you can buy and almost any stock is better than starting with water.
  2. Cook your onions and garlic before adding them to the soup pot. Bringing out the sweetness of onions and garlic before adding them to your soup pot will yield a richer flavor.
  3. Use herbs with abandon and salt with a generous hand. Okay, I know salt is supposed to be evil and all, but unless you have a health problem that prohibits you from having salt, use it along with an assortment of fresh and dried herbs. Use Kosher or sea salt. Don’t use table salt. Maybe ever.
  4. Make your soup a day ahead. If you have the time, make your soup a day ahead and reheat. Soup and stew both benefit greatly from allowing flavors to mingle.

This soup is almost more of a vegetable stew, and it bakes in the oven rather than simmering on a stove top. This is perfect for my favorite fall activity–watching football. The entire pot assembled quickly and baked until we were ready at halftime. The house also smelled terrific–all cozy and comforting.

The original recipe for this dish was posted to Eating Well, and I changed it up to suit my tastes. I used homemade chicken broth instead of water (see lesson #1 above), but you could make this vegan by using vegetable broth and eliminating the Parmesan cheese rind. I also altered the original recipe, substituting some fresh vegetables I had on hand and adding fresh herbs and garlic. I used my ceramic coated Dutch oven to make this–you will need a very large pot or Dutch oven. The original recipe says it serves 8, but I think it may serve more–it is a LOT of soup. This recipe comes together quickly and you could really use whatever fresh vegetables you have handy. The next time I make this (and there will be a next time), I may add some cannellini beans for protein. Whatever you choose, this is a wonderful versatile recipe for an easy, lazy weekend meal that is healthy!

Oven Baked Vegetable Soup (serves 8-10)

  • 5 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 pound potatoes, cubed or use tiny potatoes, cut in half
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1 tsp. fresh ground pepper, divided
  • 3 zucchini, cut in half and sliced
  • 2 medium leeks, halved and sliced 1/4″ thick
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, divided
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh oregano
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 10 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups fresh corn off the cob
  • 4 cups artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1-15 ounce can of diced tomatoes, with their juice
  • 1 2-inch piece of Parmesan cheese rind
  • 6 cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese for garnish
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Pour oil into a large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven. Arrange potatoes in a single layer over the oil.
  3. Sprinkle with half the salt and half the pepper. Add the leaves from one sprig of rosemary and 1 tablespoon of the oregano.
  4. Layer zucchini, leeks, carrots, mushrooms, corn, artichoke hearts, leaves from one sprig of rosemary, remaining oregano, salt and pepper.
  5. Tuck the Parmesan rind into the vegetables.
  6. Pour the tomatoes and juice over the vegetables. Add the chicken or vegetable stock.
  7. Cover the pot and bake in the oven for 2 or 2 1/2 hours.
  8. Serve immediately garnished with cheese and accompanied by a good, crusty bread.

 

Winter Vegetable Soup

20140127-083909.jpgWhen I was much younger and just beginning to cook for myself, I tried making soup several times and completely failed. My strategy was to dump some vegetables and meat in a pot, add water and cook. The soup was flavorless and often not very attractive. I gave up for a while and relied on canned soups to satisfy my craving for warm, comfort food. There are some decent prepared soups out there, but I don’t think any of them come in a can, and most of them rely on sodium to boost their flavor, making them questionable as a healthy food. It wasn’t until I started making my own chicken stock that I realized much of what I was doing wrong. Rather than layering flavors and preparing vegetables to bring out their best, I was just boiling the life out of everything.

This soup started with Ina Garten’s Winter Minestrone recipe, but I altered it to make use of what I had on hand. It is very easy and although it takes more time than the “dump and stir” method of my past, the time is infinitely worth it. You can change this up yourself to make use of what you have in your refrigerator or pantry. If you froze some pesto from the summer, this is a great time to use it!

This recipe makes quite a lot, so either prepare to freeze some or invite some friends over!

Winter Vegetable Soup (makes about 10-12 servings)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, diced
  • 1 large, yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 cups of diced carrots
  • 2 cups of diced celery
  • 1 cup peeled and diced butternut squash
  • 1 cup peeled and diced sweet potato
  • 2 cups fresh broccoli, chopped into small florets
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 26 ounces of canned or boxed chopped tomatoes
  • 8 cups chicken or beef stock, preferably homemade or low sodium
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 (15 ounce) can organic cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup brown rice pasta (I used a spiral pasta)
  • 3 cups fresh baby kale or Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon pesto
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a Dutch oven or stock pot. Add the pancetta and cook about 5 minutes or until nicely browned. Stir frequently to keep the pancetta from sticking.
  2. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, celery, squash, sweet potato, broccoli and thyme to the pot. Stir well and cook about 10 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients and simmer, covered for 30 minutes. Check seasonings and correct if necessary with salt and pepper.
  4. Uncover, stir well and add more liquid (either stock or water) if the soup is too thick. Simmer uncovered for another 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the rosemary sprigs. Serve immediately with a nice, hearty bread or green salad.
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