This is a versatile end of the week soup that you can chuck vegetables in that need to be used up before a shopping trip and you can also add meatballs to it if you want. It's also a way of using up leftovers from packets of different shaped pasta. It's a filling, flavoursome, easy to prepare and cheap - just what you need after a long week. Give it a go!
250 g beef mince (optional - if you want meatballs)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 rashers bacon, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
2 courgettes, roughly chopped
½ cup green beans (fresh or frozen)
400g can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock
400g can haricot or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
400g can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup dried pasta (any shape you have is fine)
1 tsp dried basil
1 big bunch of spinach leaves
1 handful fresh basil leaves (if available)
In a large saucepan, gently fry the onion and garlic over a low heat until the onion softens and becomes transparent. Add the chopped bacon and fry it until it's crisp. Throw in the prepared carrots, celery, courgettes, green beans and any other vegetables you have that you need to use up or want to put in.
Make sure that the vegetables are all cut to the same size so that they cook evenly. If some vegetables are denser than others, dice them a little bit smaller. Cook all of the vegetables over a medium heat until the carrots start to soften and brown a little.
Add the tin of tomatoes, tomato paste and vegetable stock and bring it up to a gentle simmer. Add the drained and rinsed cannellini beans, the drained and rinsed kidney beans and whatever pasta you are using. Simmer everything gently for at least 20 minutes or until the pasta has softened.
Whilst the soup simmers, make tiny meatballs. Mix the beef mince with dried basil, a good pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Form meatballs from heaped teaspoons of the seasoned mince. Repeat until all mince mixture is used.
Fry the small meatballs in a little olive oil until lightly browned all over. Make sure they are small meatballs otherwise they’ll break apart in the soup. If they do break apart in the soup, no worries they'll still get eaten with the soup.
When the pasta has softened, add the meatballs, spinach and fresh basil to the soup and stir them through. Simmer the soup for another 5 minutes then serve it with crusty bread.