Well, I think it’s fair to say that March has come in like a lion. I can only hope that means it will go out like a lamb.
The last few days have been frigid – single digits in the morning, wind chills below zero, and highs that hover in the teens. We’ve had snow showers on and off since Sunday with a permanent dusting on the ground and our cars that have to be routinely brushed.
And I, for one, am sick of it.
I know there’s no sense in complaining about the weather. In fact, I often find it tedious when other people do. Yesterday I overheard a man berating the groundhog for making a false prediction of early spring. “I was counting on that guy to get it right this year. Doesn’t he know we are all tired of winter already?” He seemed honestly aggrieved that the groundhog misled him.
I understand his sentiment – we are all tired of winter. But I sincerely doubt that it’s a rodent’s fault we are still dealing with cold and snow. We live in northwestern Pennsylvania, a place where March is very much the middle of winter and complaining about the weather is not going to change anything.
If we want better weather, we need to move south. And, for the record, I am very much in favor of this solution. I lobby hard for it every year and I plan to head to warmer climes as soon as Kyle graduates high school; but, I won’t be moving anytime soon.
So in the meantime, I make soup. Lots and lots of soup.
Homemade soup is the ultimate comfort food. It’s warm, filling and made with love. Just the act of making soup makes my heart happy and make me feel like a grandma – not my grandma per se, because neither one of them cooked much at all, let alone made homemade soup. But I find soup-making to be soothing. It’s a slow, but easy, process that reminds me of simpler times.
I love that there are endless varieties of soup that can be made: chicken noodle, creamy chicken rice, beef barley, cauliflower, potato leek, broccoli and cheese, French onion, baked potato, fiesta soup; there are simple broth-based soups, thick and creamy chowders and hearty bean soups; veggie soups, healthy soups, and rich, indulgent soups. There are so many options to choose from that we never get tired of soup in our house. In fact, it is a staple on our weekly menu from October through April.
I also love that soup is one of those foods that gets better with age. Not only can you make it ahead of time, I believe you should make it in advance and reheat it when you are ready to eat. This allows the ingredients and flavors time to blend together and makes for the most delicious and enjoyable bowl possible.
Speaking of options – there are also lots of different options when it comes to cooking soup. My favorite is usually the tried and true stove top method in a great big soup pot. But, I also use my crockpot to cook soup, and keep it warm until we are ready to eat it. And you can can even use an Instant Pot to make soup – or so they tell me. I don’t actually own an Instant Pot.
For today’s recipe – Vegetarian Lasagna Soup – I used the traditional soup-cooking method. I’ve been making my original version of Lasagna Soup for a couple of years and it is always well-received in my family. But now that I have a mostly-vegetarian daughter, that soup is no longer going to work for family dinners. So, I decided to modify the recipe to create a vegetarian version that was as filling and satisfying as the original. Not only is this soup perfect for herbivores, it is also a great option for Lent.
I started by heating up some olive oil over medium heat in my soup pot and then I combined some diced onions and carrots and sautéed them until they were soft, about 5 minutes. Then I added two or three big pieces of celery (we don’t like hot celery here so although I use it to flavor my soups I leave it in big chunks so that it is easy to extract, but if you do like celery you could easily dice it up as well) and some garlic and cooked for another minute to two, being careful not to let the garlic burn.
Then I added two large cans or crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, red wine, basil, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and water. I brought the mixture to a boil and allowed it to cook for about 30 minutes. Then I stirred in some red wine (just a bit from the bottle I planned to drink at dinner) and allowed the pot to simmer for about fifteen minutes. I brought the pot back up to a boil and at that time I added the lentils (for a hefty does of protein), reduced the heat to low and cooked for about 45 minutes. Finally I threw in the broken lasagna noodles and cooked the whole thing for another fifteen minutes until the noodles were tender. Then I added the greens and let them cook for a couple of minutes, until they are just wilted.
To serve, I topped each bowl with a dollop of ricotta cheese (fresh ricotta is the best!), some shredded parmesan and mozzarella and a dusting of fresh basil. This soup is best served with a big chunky of crusty bread and a nice glass of red wine – bit what isn’t? It’s so delicious and full of hearty flavor you won’t even miss the meat. I promise.