Monday, April 15, 2013

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Pasta e Fagioli Soup Recipe with Whole Wheat Orzo (and the Ninja Cooker!)

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Pasta e Fagioli Soup
I made Vegetarian Pasta e Fagioli Soup in my new Ninja Cooker, but you can use any slow cooker.

Pasta e Fagioli means simply "pasta and beans" and there are many variations of this traditional Italian soup.  If you have an Italian grandmother, this is the soup she probably made for you, or perhaps you've had a version of it at an Italian restaurant.  Either way, this soup is Italian comfort food at its best.  In Utah we're right smack in the middle of those spring weather fluctuations where the temperature can drop 20 degrees overnight, and this Slow Cooker Vegetarian Pasta e Fagioli Soup tasted great when I tried it out with my brother Rand on one of those chilly days.

I made this soup in the new Ninja Cooker that my wonderful blogging and real-life friend Lydia sent me as a housewarming present.  Lydia got a Ninja Cooker a few months ago and she was so sure I would love it too that before I even closed on the new house she promised to send me one for a housewarming present.  (Thanks Lydia!)  And Lydia is right about this fantastic little cooking gadget; the convenience of being able to saute things right in the slow cooker and then switch to slow cooking is especially great.  However, I'm not trying to convince you that everyone needs a Ninja Cooker, so rest assured that any recipes I'm making in the Ninja can also be made in a regular slow cooker, and I'll give instructions that make it clear how to make the dish either way.

Of course this delicious and comforting vegetarian soup is my Meatless Monday recipe for this week, and I'm betting this is a Meatless Monday dish the whole family will enjoy!  (You can find more meatless recipes by using the label Meatless Monday or checking Vegetarian Recipes in the recipe index.  I'm also doing a meatless slow cooker recipe each Monday on Slow Cooker from Scratch.  For more Meatless Monday ideas from other bloggers, follow our Meatless Monday board on Pinterest, or check Meatless Monday at BlogHer.) 

Heat the olive oil and saute the onion (either in a pan on the stove or in the Ninja Cooker) until it's starting to soften, about 4 minutes. 

Add the chopped celery and carrots to the onion and cook 3-4 minutes more.  Then add the minced garlic, Italian Herb Blend, Spike, fennel and red pepper flakes and saute about 1 minutes more.  (Transfer to slow cooker if you're sauteeing in a pan.)

Rinse the canned red beans until no more foam appears.

Add the beans, vegetable stock, and tomato sauce to the slow cooker and season the soup with a little salt and fresh ground black pepper and start to cook.

And if you really want to get the full Italian grandmother flavor, add a couple of Parmesan rinds to the soup when you start cooking it. (This is optional, you can add more Parmesan to the finished soup if you don't have a rind.)

After the soup has cooked 3-4 hours on high (or 6-7 hours on low), add the whole wheat orzo and cook about 40 minutes more.  Stir in balsamic vinegar to finish the soup and serve hot, with chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan to add at the table.


Slow Cooker Vegetarian Pasta e Fagioli Soup with Whole Wheat Orzo
(Makes about 6 servings; recipe adapted from 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker, although I spiced it up quite a bit.)

Equipment:
I used my new Ninja Cooker to make this soup, but any medium-sized slow cooker (4-5 quart size) will work.)

Ingredients:
2 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 T minced garlic
1 tsp. Italian Herb Blend (Use any brand of Italian seasoning that you have.)
2-3 tsp. Spike Seasoning (Or substitute any type of all-purpose seasoning blend that you like.)
1/2 tsp. ground fennel (probably optional, but it adds a lot of flavor.)
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 cans (15 oz.) red beans, rinsed and drained
3 cans (14 oz.) vegetable broth (or use homemade vegetable stock, which would be fantastic in this)
8 oz. can tomato sauce
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
several pieces Parmesan rind (optional, but does add wonderful flavor to the soup)
1/2 cup 100% Whole Wheat Orzo Pasta (could substitute any type of small whole wheat pasta, or use  brown rice for gluten-free variation)
2 T good quality balsamic vinegar
freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving
chopped fresh parsley for serving

Instructions:
Heat olive oil (either in the Ninja Cooker or in a pan on the stove) and saute the onions until they start to soften, about 4 minutes.  Add the celery and carrots and cook 3-4 minutes more, then add the minced garlic, Italian Herb Blend, Spike Seasoning, ground fennel, and red pepper flakes and cook about a minute more.  (Transfer to the slow cooker if you're using a pan on the stove.)

While the vegetables are cooking, put the beans in a colander placed in the sink and rinse well with cold water, until no more foam appears.  When vegetables are done, add the drained beans, vegetable broth, tomato sauce, salt, and fresh ground black pepper to the slow cooker (along with the Parmesan rinds if you have some) and cook on high for 3-4 hours (or on low for 6-7 hours.)  

Add the orzo (or other small pasta shape) and cook about 40 minutes more.  Remove Parmesan rinds and stir in the balsamic vinegar.  Serve soup hot, with freshly grated Parmesan and chopped fresh parsley to add at the table.

This freezes well, and I'm glad I have some in the freezer for the next chilly spring day!

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South Beach Suggestions:
This soup would be Phase 2 or 3 for the  South Beach Diet, due to the carrots and whole wheat orzo.  If you substitute another pasta shape, it needs to be whole wheat pasta for South Beach.

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

More Warm and Comforting Meatless Soups:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Vegetarian Italian Farro Soup ~ The Chic Life
Spicy Vegan Black Bean Soup with Cilantro and Green Tobasco ~ Kalyn's Kitchen
Vegetarian Mulligitawny Soup with Red Lentils ~ The Tiffin Box
Indian-Spiced Slow Cooker Red Lentil Soup with Spinach and Coconut Milk ~ Kalyn's Kitchen
Seven Vegetarian Vegetable Soups ~ Soup Chick 
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

Blogger Disclosure:
Posts may include links to my affiliate account at Amazon.com, and Kalyn's Kitchen earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!
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23 comments:

  1. Pasta e fagioli is one of my favorite soups! It just tastes like total comfort to me! Love this version of it!

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  2. What a lovely way to break in your new Ninja! Pasta e fagioli is popular in the Italian neighborhoods in Rhode Island, but in restaurants it's often a bit of a gloppy mess. I love making it at home, where you can cook the pasta until it's done, and not any longer than that.

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  3. Joanne and Lydia, I did love the soup. I think I might have only eaten it at (gasp) The Olive Garden, and this was definitely much better!

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  4. The soup looks so good... I love these recipe which are good enough for a complete meal. Going to make some real soon.

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  5. I really enjoy pasta e fagioli and make it a couple of times a year. Duh, that it would be awesome in the slow cooker.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Velva

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  6. Velva, it was such an easy slow cooker recipe. Definitely I'll make this over and over.

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  7. This soup is cooking in the crock pot right now. Looking forward to supper. Sounds yummy.
    Thanks for all the great recipes.

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  8. Robin, my pleasure. Hope you enjoy the soup!

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  9. I need to pick up some whole wheat orzo!! I haven't tried it yet. This recipe sounds perfect for a cool spring day like today!

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  10. Thanks Becky! It really was so good.

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  11. Kalyn,

    Pasta e fagioli is my favourite and you include it here. I can't have enough of it. I been making this over and over again.

    One question here. Can we spice it up?



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  12. Susan feel free to add anything you'd like!

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  13. Kalyn,
    I made this yesterday and must say that there is very little left over! My husband loved it and ate two huge bowl fulls. We have only had it at the Olive Garden and I must say we like this version much better.

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  14. Kathleen, thanks so much. I know a lot of people love The Olive Garden version of this, so I'm thrilled to hear you like mine better.

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  15. Looks great :) Can't wait to pass this on to my clients. I am going to suggest substituting Faro for Orzo as Faro is a whole-grain, lower glycemic choice.

    You mentioned this sub should work fine -- hope that holds true with Faro!!

    Thx for the recipe!

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  16. Brooke, I'm sure Farro would be fine, although I'm not sure it's any lower-glycemic than the whole wheat orzo. But I love farro; sounds good.

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  17. This soup is wonderful!
    I made this without the pasta sauce
    & it is amazing. Such wonderful flavors, thanks
    for sharing.

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  18. Andrea, do you mean without the pasta? So glad you liked it!

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  19. I meant without the tomato sauce.
    Thanks again for this wonderful recipe!

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  20. i would like to make this but can't find ground fennel or the all purpose seasoning so disappointed

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    Replies
    1. Most grocery stores should have ground fennel in the spice department, but if not you can order it from a spice house. I really love The Spice House, but any place that sells spices should have it. Spike Seasoning is definitely optional in the soup. It's usually sold near the health foods, not by the spices, or you can definitely get Spike Seasoning at Amazon.com.

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    2. By the way, I think the soup would still be good, just not quite as flavorful, if you just made it without those two seasonings.

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