What's For Dinner: Pasta e Fagioli Soup

On a cold snowy day, there's nothing I crave more than a hot bowl of soup. And if all of the ingredients required to make the soup are already in my pantry, so much the better.

D and I arrived home yesterday from a weekend in South Dakota to 14 inches of snow here in Rhinelander. It looks like winter has arrived early in the Northwoods this year! This first winter storm of the season coincided directly with our path home from South Dakota, making for an interesting (to say the least) drive home. We originally planned to get back some time Tuesday, but given the weather and road situation, we opted instead to slow-roll our way back east with a stopover in Aberdeen, South Dakota (home for a time to L. Frank Baum of The Wizard of Oz fame) on Monday night.

{D hunting for pheasant with Franka}

Earlier in the weekend, we enjoyed lovely sunny weather in the 50s in South Dakota, before the chill hit and temperatures plummeted on Saturday evening and throughout the day on Sunday. D and I were in South Dakota for DL Fest, an annual gathering of Deutsch Langhaar owners for a weekend of pheasant hunting and general camaraderie.

{D with a pheasant he shot that Franka retrieved}

It was my first time experiencing hunting first-hand, though I didn't personally do any shooting. It was an intriguing experience that I'm still processing. I'm not sure if I'll ever shoot at anything other than inanimate objects, though I am excited that we brought home a small cooler full of pheasants. Now I just need to research pheasant recipes -- do you have any to share?

In the meantime, since we haven't had the chance to go grocery shopping since our return, I turned to my pantry essentials for tonight's dinner inspiration. I had pinned a recipe a while back for Pasta e Fagioli soup, and was delighted to see that I actually had the majority of ingredients on hand. I made a few changes here and there (including making the soup vegetarian), as I can't help but tinker with a recipe. The resulting soup is thick, hearty, and full of warming comfort, perfect for an evening dinner alongside a roaring fire.

Pasta e Fagioli Soup (printer-friendly version) 
makes 4 servings

1/2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 large onion, diced fine (about 1 scant cup)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup uncooked orzo
freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish [optional]

1. Add the olive oil and butter to a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven and heat over medium-high heat.
2. Add the diced onion and saute until softened and golden in color, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
3. Add all of the remaining ingredients, except the orzo, to the pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Add the orzo and cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until the pasta has cooked through. Garnish each bowl of soup with freshly grated Parmesan cheese just before serving if desired.

(adapted from this Back to Her Roots recipe