Here is a recipe for a hearty and healthy soup, that is vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy free and vegan (if you don't use parmesan cheese). I also like the fact that it is a good recipe for the seasons in New Zealand and Canada currently; NZ being Autumn and Canada Spring. Although, I understand that in some places spring may still feel a bit too winter-ish. If you're feeling down about the weather wherever you are, one positive is that a meal like this is a lot more appealing when the weather is cooler - a warm bowl of soup on a warm summer's day just doesn't work as well.
Pasta and Bean Soup
90ml extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
600g mixed vegetables (e.g. courgette, fennel, potato, sweet potato, leek, celery, carrot or peas)
3-4 pinches of dried mixed herbs (e.g. rosemary,oregano and thyme)
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 litre vegetable stock
80 g dried pasta (I used gluten-free corn pasta)
1 400g can of beans (e.g. cannellinni, borlotti, haricot or chickpeas) drained and rinsed
2 bay leaves
50g parmesan cheese (optional)
1. Heat approx. 60ml of the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and chilli flakes and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until they are soft.
2. Add all of the mixed vegetables, except the peas, and the mixed herbs. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Fry until the vegetables are soft (or about 2-3 minutes).
3. On medium, cover the pan with a lid and continue to fry for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until the vegetables have softened.
4. In a pot (or in the same pan, if you have one big enough) add the stock, pasta, beans, bay leaves and peas and bring to a boil. (If you have put this in a larger pot, add the vegetables). Bring to a simmer and cover for 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the pasta has absorbed some of the liquid and is tender. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly before serving.
5. To serve, spoon the pasta into serving bowls and sprinkle parmesan cheese over top (if using). Season to taste with black pepper and drizzle a bit of olive oil over each serving.
Recipe adapted from Pasta and Bean Soup (Pasta e Fagioli) - Economy Gastronomy www.bbc.co.uk/food