Many people claim that eating well is expensive, but I could not disagree more (at least it doesn’t have to be). And this Italian Peasant Soup is evidence. Heaps of vegetables and beans come together to create this delicious and über-healthy soup to serve for lunch or dinner alongside some crusty bread to channel your inner Italian.
Spring has SPRUNG (massive fist pump, I’m soooo excited!) and this soup is the perfect way to transition into the nicer, yet still cool, weather. It’s filled with bright flavours and hearty veggies but isn’t heavy in the slightest. It is also vegan and gluten free if you leave out the pasta (see the notes at the end of the recipe for the gluten free adaptations).
I’ll have to restrain myself a bit (after all, this is a soup post), but healthy eating gets RIDICULOUSLY overcomplicated. If you’re trying to simplify how you approach nutrition in your own world to free up some valuable brain space, think about maximizing the nutrient density of what you’re eating. It’s a simple approach that leverages common sense.
For instance, there are 70 calories in an Oreo cookie, the same number in a small banana. But the banana is going to give you healthy fibre to sustain energy levels along with potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C and a bunch of other micronutrients. The Oreo cookie will give you a spike of blood sugar and that’s about all.
Something like this soup is a similar story, where it is a serious case of maximizing the nutrition per bite. Which leaves your body happy, healthy and energized. And who doesn’t want THAT?
Charlie helped me prep the soup; he’s totally obsessed with helping me in the kitchen since a friend of ours got him the Opinel training knife. It has this cool hole in it that helps train kids on how to properly hold a knife which makes it so much safer. It’s the first picture below in the little shop section if you’re wanting to see what it looks like.
SHOP THE POST
Like most soups, this Italian Peasant Soup is even better after it sits overnight. If you choose to make it ahead you may want to consider adding the spinach (I used the Fresh Attitude brand that is locally grown in season and packed here in the Okanagan) right before you serve it to keep its brightness – but it’s great even if you add it in advance.
It’s your choice to add both the pasta and the potato for a more filling soup, or simply choose one or the other. I cook the pasta on the side (otherwise it sucks up too much liquid) and add it to my kids’ soup as it’s more fun for them to eat. The kids absolutely loved this for the record!
Note that this makes a lot of soup. We love having it for leftovers for a quick healthy lunch the next day reheated, and should you wish, it also freezes well (freeze it into individual portions for an easy quick meal on those days when you just can’t bear the thought of making dinner).
Happy almost spring my friends! Pretty sure this is the last hot soup recipe I’ll be posting for a long time! If you’re looking for something else to make today to prep for the week ahead, try out my Sneaky Mommy Muffins (probably the most popular recipe ever on the blog), a batch of my Top Secret Granola, or my Big Batch Salad that will have you covered all week long!
Italian Peasant Soup (Hearty Vegetable Soup)
This super hearty vegetable soup is LOADED with goodness at every turn. It is the perfect healthy spring soup to transition into warmer weather with a bright vibrant punch of basil and fresh spinach added at the end. This makes a lot of soup (we like a big batch as it's ideal for week-day lunches), cut the recipe in half if you're making it for a smaller crew.
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups finely chopped yellow onion (1 large onion)
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1½ cups finely diced celery (2 stalks)
- 1½ cups finely diced peeled carrots (2 to 3 carrots)
- 2 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
- 2 cups thinly sliced fennel (1 medium bulb)
- 1½ cups diced zucchini (1 small zucchini)
- 1½ cups peeled yellow potato cut into ½-inch cubes
- 1 can 28 ounces/796 mL diced tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons 45 mL tomato paste
- 4 litres vegetable stock plus extra to thin if desired
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 cups 1 L loosely packed fresh baby spinach (see Tip)
- 2 cups 500 mL cooked small pasta such as shells or macaroni (see Tip) (optional)
- 1 cup 250 mL loosely packed chopped fresh basil
- 1 large can (19 oz/540ml) white or red kidney beans drained and rinsed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- thick slices of focaccia or baguette brushed with olive oil, toasted or grilled, and rubbed with garlic, for serving (optional)
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until fragrant and translucent, 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the celery and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
Add the cabbage and fennel and cook until softened, 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the zucchini, potato, diced tomatoes with their juice, tomato paste, vegetable stock, and bay leaves. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 30 minutes.
Stir in the pasta (if using), basil, and kidney beans and simmer until the beans are heated through. Add the spinach, remove from the heat and stir until the spinach has wilted. Remove the bay leaves and add extra stock if a thinner consistency is desired. Season well with salt and pepper.
Divide the soup among bowls and serve with toasted focaccia or baguette, if desired. The soup will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Tip If you’re making the soup ahead, don’t add the spinach until just before serving after it's reheated on the stove-top.
To make this gluten-free: Use gluten-free pasta or leave it out. Serve with gluten-free bread or skip it.