Basic Veggie Soup

Sometimes I need something quick and easy for dinner, that is a flexible enough recipe that I can just wing it without an extra trip to the store or a lengthy grocery list. Or any grocery list, for that matter. During those times, I go with a basic veggie soup that I can add and subtract to using items I have on hand. (This is also a good clean-out-the-fridge-there-are-too-many-containers-and-I-can’t-find-anything-and-something-might-actually-be-living-back-there-by-now recipe.)

I start it out with a basic mirepoix: chopped carrots, onions, and celery, sautéed in olive oil with a couple pinches of sea salt. If you wanted to make this recipe oil-free, just sauté these veggies in about .5 C water until soft, checking to make sure that they aren’t burning fairly frequently.

Then I add some tomato paste and let the paste caramelize on the bottom of the pot; this is called a “fond.” You could skip this step, or even add a splash of balsamic vinegar and 1 Tbsp grain or dijon mustard. This step is all about developing an umami flavor so that the soup tastes like it’s been cooking all day. (Don’t worry, I won’t rat you out.)

Then I add a little liquid – water if you’re unprepared like me, or broth (chicken, veggie, beef) if you happen to have some on hand. I scrape at the fond and let it dissolve into the liquid, then add the remaining, then add the rest of my veggies.

In this version I included chopped red potatoes for some starch and served protein on the side. Other starchy options include winter squash, sweet potatoes, rice, frozen peas or corn, noodles, rice, wild rice, and cooked quinoa. Protein options for this soup include beans (black, garbanzo/chickpea, pinto, cannellini, red kidney, lentils) or shredded chicken.

When your soup is ready, feel free to further customize it with toppings. Grated parmesan cheese, fresh ground black pepper, a sprinkle of fresh parsley or basil, nutritional yeast, toasted pumpkin seeds, a spoonful of pesto, a drizzle of good olive oil…

Make this soup your own. Include what you want. This recipe is just a framework, something to start from.

Quick & Easy Veggie Soup (A Framework Recipe)

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, small/medium dice
2 carrots, small/medium dice
2-3 stalks celery, small/medium dice
2-4 cloves garlic, diced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (optional)
1 Tbsp grain or dijon mustard (optional)
2-3 C mixed vegetables, chopped into bitesized pieces (ie., summer squash, chopped cabbage, diced potato, shredded Swiss chard or spinach, sweet potatoes, etc.)
2 quarts water OR 1 quart water + 1 quart broth
1-2 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
1 bay leaf
.5 C frozen peas or corn (optional)
1 C cooked beans, pasta, rice, shredded chicken, etc.
sea salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a medium saucepan on low/medium heat, heat the olive oil until shimmering but not smoking. Add onion, carrots, and celery, and reduce heat to low. Cook until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally.
2. Add tomato paste and balsamic vinegar and mustard (if using). Continue to cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, allowing a deep brown (not burned!) film to form on the bottom of the pan (“fond.”)
3. Deglaze the fond: Pour a little of your liquid into the bottom of the pot and scrape it into the liquid.
4. Add your chopped vegetables, then add the rest of the liquid. Add bay leaf and paprika if using. Turn pot up to medium/low heat.
5. Cook at a simmer (small bubbles) until the hardest vegetables are tender. Add any frozen peas and corn, cooked pasta, beans, shredded chicken, etc. at this point to warm up. Cook for about 5 more minutes, then remove from heat.
6. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
7. Pour into bowls, add desired toppings, and enjoy!

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