Soup is the frugal cook’s best friend. It doesn’t take much of anything; a little bit of meat, a little bit of broth, a little bit of vegetable, a little bit of onion, and a judicious hand with spices and herbs come together to stretch and create a pot of mind-bendingly good soup big enough to feed a crowd.
You and I both know meat is expensive, but it’s oh-so-good… I like my cold weather soups to have the oomph and fullness of taste that meat provides. In order to get that without breaking the bank, I use highly flavourful meats like kielbasa or smoked beef sausage in my soup. To make the meat go further, I use one of my dad’s tricks; the smaller the amount of meat I have, the smaller I dice it and the further it goes. The goal is to get a little bit of meat in every bite and this works like magic.
Now you can fool your tastebuds with the little bitty meat trick, but you can’t fool your belly into thinking its full. To help bulk up the soup and make it more satisfying you have to add STUFF. I like beans (the perennial meat substitute) and lots of ’em, greens of some sort (spinach or kale are my preferences), carrots, celery and onions. Will the soup fail if you’re missing one of those things? Oh gosh no, it’ll just be different. I’m a food blogger, though, it’s my job to tell you how to replicate what I like best.
…And this soup is what I like best. It’s what my hubby likes best. It’s what my kids (minus the “EW! No green stuff!” crowd) like best. It’s just plain good stuff and it comes together so quickly that you’ll miss it if you blink. Unless you’re in a household of one or two people, I don’t advise reducing the recipe. Yes, it DOES make a lot. Okay, if I’m being really honest, it makes a vat. Here’s the thing, though. It is a universal truth that soup tastes better on Day Two. On Day Three? Forget about it. It’s better yet! Odds are the soup won’t make it past Day Four, but if it does, pop it into the freezer in microwave safe, resealable containers. There it will sit happily waiting for you to have a soup craving.
Mmmmmmm… soup. It’s good for the soul AND the pocketbook.
Hearty Kielbasa, Bean, and Vegetable Soup
- 8 ounces to 2 pounds of Beef or Polska Kielbasa
- 1 to 2 onions peeled and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
- 1 to 2 carrots peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
- 1 to 2 ribs of celery washed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 3 cloves garlic peeled and sliced or minced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 quart home canned whole tomatoes in juice or 1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes in juice
- 8 cups chicken broth or stock
- 3 cups of cooked cannellini or Great Northern beans with their liquid or 2 cans, with liquid
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1 pound of spinach you can use chopped,frozen spinach or fresh baby spinach leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- Optional for serving: grated Parmesan or Romano cheese and hot sauce
- Begin by cutting the kielbasa. If you are using a smaller amount, dice it into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces. If you're using the larger amount, slice into 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick rounds.
- Place a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium heat. Add the kielbasa pieces and cook, stirring frequently, until the kielbasa has rendered quite a bit of fat and taken on some brown colour. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the kielbasa to a rimmed plate or bowl. Drain all but 1 to 2 tablespoons of the kielbasa fat from the pan. Return the pan to the heat and add the onions, carrots and celery. Add a pinch of salt and stir to coat all of the vegetables. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, stir well, and cook for another minute.
- Use your hands to break up the whole tomatoes over the pan. They don't have to be perfect, but should at least be broken down to bite size. Add the juice from the can along with the chicken stock, beans and their liquid, bay leaf, and thyme leaves. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer the soup until the carrots and celery are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Return the kielbasa to the pan and add the frozen or fresh spinach to the pot. Cook just until heated through.
- Serve hot. We like ours with a little grated Parmesan cheese and hot sauce.