Sunday, 2 November 2014

White bean and tortelloni soup

I hosted a dinner party for a bunch of very good friends last week. For once, I decided not to make a mountain out of a molehill and to keep the food very simple. I guess my "clean and simple" mindset from my card crafting is making it's way into the kitchen as well. Instead of planning an intricate three course meal I decided I would stick to something easy and delicious and spend all my time with my guests instead of in the kitchen. 

One of my guests is vegetarian, and I knew my other guests wouldn't mind eating veggie so I decided to just make the whole meal vegetarian instead of having separate options. I was browsing the food blogs I follow in case I would stumble upon inspiration, and there it was right in front of me. How Sweet It Is was featuring a white bean and tortellini soup and I thought that would be perfect. Easy ingredients, and I could partly prep it in advance and then it would only take me a short while to cook it when my guests had arrived. I also served sundried tomato and goats cheese muffins and garlic breads. I didn't have any starters, I just had some olives and grapes out on the table that we nibbled on while enjoying some bubbly before the meal. I had planned to make a crumble for dessert, but it turned out the Culinary Consultant wanted to bake so he made an apple cake and some banana bread for dessert. Although I have to admit we never made it to the banana bread, as we could hardly move after finishing the soup, bread, muffins and apple cake with custard.

I made a double serving of the soup in a huge saucepan as there was five of us for dinner, and I also hoped there would be some left over for me to take to work for lunch the following week, which there was. The original recipe uses tortellini, but as I wanted a vegetarian soup, I went for tortelloni instead. You can easily choose whatever pasta you prefer. 

White bean and tortelloni soup (from How Sweet It Is, serves 4-5):
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp smoked paprika
salt and black pepper to taste
2 tbsp tomato puree
300 g spinach
2 tins (400 g each) crushed tomatoes
2 cans cannellini beans (I used cannellini and butter beans)
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
400 g fresh tortelloni (I used a mix of spinach and ricotta as well as basil pesto)
(1/3 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese)

The howto: 
Chop the onion and garlic. Drain and rinse the beans. Heat oil and butter in a large saucepan. Add onions and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the spices and tomato puree and give it all a good stir. Add spinach and let cook until wilted. Add the crushed tomatoes, beans and vegetable stock and let cook for about 5 minutes. Add the pasta, and cook according to instructions (my fresh tortelloni required 5 minutes of cooking). Make sure not to over-cook the pasta. If you want to, stir in some grated cheese right before serving. I didn't as I was serving this with cheesy garlic bread and cheesy muffins. 

The verdict:
The food was certainly a success, all the guests enjoyed it, and even the Culinary Consultant went back for seconds. I will certainly be making it again, although I think switching to a meat filled pasta would make him like it even more. 

The soup is really tasty, I don't often cook pasta but this was a great way of having some. I used a mix of store bought crushed tomatoes and some of our home-made tomato and garlic sauce from our fantastic sun ripened fresh tomatoes. I usually use very little salt in my food, but to bring out all the flavour from the tomatoes and beans, you want to make sure you season the soup properly. I had some leftovers for a few more days, and it was as tasty when re-heated as it was when first served. I certainly consider this a great success. 

The wonderful thing about the soup is that it hardly required any effort to put together. I chopped the onions and garlic before my guests arrived. When it was time to prepare dinner, I just chucked in the chopped onions and garlic and joined my guests while they were cooking, went back after five minutes and added the spinach, joined my guests, went back to the kitchen to add the tomatoes and beans, joined my guests, and then finally added the pasta. I felt like I hardly missed any of the conversation, and the soup just cooked all by itself. I had also pre-prepared sundried tomato and goat's cheese muffins which I put in the oven when I started the soup, and I also pre-prepared some roasted garlic and mozzarella bread which I popped in the oven 10 minutes before the soup was done. It all worked perfectly together.

Unfortunately I only managed to take very bad photos of the soup on the day I served it. The photo at the top of this post was taken the next day, but at that point most of the liquid had been absorbed into the pasta, so it didn't look much like a soup. It was still tasty, but I included the very bad photo below from when it was still an actual soup.

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