(And the answer was, yes, I knew exactly how much soup there was in the freezer.)
I can't help it this time of year. It's soup season: I love to think about it, I love to make it, I love to eat it, and okay, fine, I love to have a freezer full of it. Deal, Mr. Soup.
The good news for everyone involved is that this week I got a sudden call back to school for a 7th Grade Language Arts leave replacement. I now have an excuse to go ahead and indulge myself with another soup, because now that I'm working again, I'm whittling that stash down by one every day. (There are only 26 in the freezer now! Eek!) It is just so ridicuously handy to grab a cup of frozen soup on my way out the door each morning. Ta-da! Lunch!
Today's soup is my version of a Slow Cooker Italian Pasta and Bean Soup - Pasta e Fagioli (pronounced fah-zhool). There are a lot of recipes for this on the internet, most of which seem to be inspired by Olive Garden. I've only eaten at Olive Garden once in my life, and I hated every bite of the shrimp scampi linguine I chose, so I can't attest to their soups. I can, however, attest to the version I made. It's probably not authentic, especially as I snuck kale in there. (And if you're wondering, the answer to that one is "No, there isn't anything kale doesn't make better.") It's a hearty, flavorful bowl full of yum that makes your house smell terrific. Soup hoarders, unite!
Slow Cooker Pasta e Fagioli (Italian Pasta and Bean Soup)
1 lb. ground beef
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
2 t. dried Italian Seasoning
1 t. red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
2 stalks celery, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can white kidney beans (cannellini), rinsed and drained
3 c. marinara sauce (I'm a big fan of Paul Newman's - but make your own if you are so inclined)
1 2-inch chunk of parmesan rind (optional)
4 c. chicken broth
1/2 c. ditalini pasta (or other small pasta)
1/2 head curly kale, washed, stems removed, and chopped (about 3 cups)
In a large sautee pan, brown ground beef over medium-high heat. Once browned, drain excess fat from pan. Turn heat down to medium and add the onion. Sautee until onion starts to soften, around 5 minutes. Add garlic, Italian Seasoning, red pepper flakes and bay leaves and continue to stir and sautee around 1 minute more, until everything is well combined and you can smell the garlic and spices.
Add the ground beef mixture to your slow cooker. Stir in the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the pasta and kale. Turn slow cooker on to low and cook for 7 hours. Add pasta and kale and cook for an additional 30 minutes, or until pasta is tender. Remove bay leaves and parmesan rind before serving.
**The pasta will absorb quite a bit of liquid, so make sure you use a small shape, or you'll end up with a squishy stew instead of a soup. Add a small amount of additional liquid when re-heating, if necessary, to re-brothify. Yes, that is too a word.