Italy's traditional pasta and bean soup, Pasta e Fagioli, is simple and satisfying. In this version, the stock is scented with fresh rosemary, generous chunks of cubed boneless pork loin roast, white beans, garlic, tomatoes and a small shaped pasta. Serve it with warm, crusty bread. The recipe comes from 'Soup Swap' by Kathy Gunst. (Juli Leonard/News & Observer/TNS)

Soups for swapping

Southerners are known for their cookie swaps. But Kathy Gunn, owner of Midway Community Kitchen in Carrboro, N.C., thought why not a soup swap?

“In the wintertime, there is not as much to do, you might as well make soup and trade with friends,” Gunn says.

Gunn was inspired by Kathy Gunst, resident chef for WBUR’s radio show “Here and Now.”

“It’s a pretty cool concept,” says Gunst, who started a soup swap with her neighbors and friends in Maine. “Six years later we are still doing it.”

From January to April, Gunst and her group meet once a month on Sunday to savor the flavor of these liquid fusions of comfort. “So many older people grew up on homemade soup, but there’s an entire generation that don’t know what homemade soups are about,” she says.

Chef Lucindy Willis of Terrapin Cove in West Yanceyville, N.C., offers a few secrets to making good soups. Homemade broth is best. Keep it simple with seasonings; use thyme for chicken soups and winter stews, and oregano and basil for minestrone soups. To add a little heat, a pinch of red pepper flake does the job. Don’t use any ingredient that will overpower the other ingredients, such as too much rosemary or lots of garlic and onion in a cream soup.

“I warn my cooking students not to overuse the seasonings or use too many varieties of spices,” says Willis.

Willis loves the idea of a soup swap: “How lovely it is to open your freezer on a cold winter day and discover a soup that will go perfectly with that brie and cranberry panini.”


Black-eyed Pea Soup with Salsa

This soup was adapted by Lucindy Willis from "Dairy Hollow House Soup & Bread" by Crescent Dragonwagon (1992).

1 pound black-eyed peas

7 to 9 cups chicken stock, divided

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried cumin

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried coriander

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup Spicy V8 juice

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

3 cloves of minced garlic

1 to 2 large Vidalia onions, chopped

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil

2 to 3 carrots, peeled and diced

1 red or yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced

3 ribs celery with leaves, diced

Salt and pepper to taste

Garnishes: salsa, sour cream, cilantro

In a large, heavy soup pot, cover black-eyed peas, washed and picked over, with water (add more water than you think because the peas absorb the water). Let them soak overnight.

Drain the beans in a colander, then return the beans to the pot. Add 6 to 8 cups chicken stock to cover beans by 2 to 3 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer. Add bay leaves, oregano, ground cumin, basil and coriander. Cover the beans and let them simmer, stirring occasionally — until you can easily squash a bean against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Keep the soup over low heat.

Dissolve tomato paste in 1 cup chicken stock. Add to simmering black-eyes, along with V8 juice, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, Tabasco sauce and minced garlic. Give the mixture a good stir to combine.

In a separate skillet, sauté chopped onions in olive oil until transparent, 3-4 minutes. Add carrots, red or yellow bell pepper and celery. Continue cooking until they soften a bit, another 2 minutes. Stir these vegetables into the soup, scraping the skillet to get the flavorful bits. If you think the soup is too thick, add additional stock.

Now it’s time to taste. Add salt and pepper if needed. Simmer another 15 minutes or so uncovered.

Ladle the hot soup into bowls, and top each serving with salsa, a dab of sour cream and a sprig of cilantro, if desired.

Yield: 8-10 servings


Pasta E Fagioli

Italy’s traditional pasta and bean soup is simple and satisfying. In this version, the stock is scented with fresh rosemary, generous chunks of cubed boneless pork loin roast, white beans, garlic, tomatoes and a small, shaped pasta. You can also substitute 8 ounces thick-cut bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces for the pork loin. Add the bacon to the stockpot and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the bacon is crisp. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat. Add 1 teaspoon flour to the fat and whisk over low heat for 2 minutes. Then proceed as directed. It’s a thick, hearty, main-course soup. Serve it with warm, crusty bread. From “Soup Swap” by Kathy Gunst, (Chronicle Books, 2016).

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

12 ounces boneless pork loin roast, cut into 1/2-in cubes

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 cup dry white wine

1 small onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

2 medium celery stalks, diced

1/4 cup packed chopped fresh flat leaf parsley leaves, divided

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves, divided

6 cups chicken stock or broth

One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

3/4 cup small pasta (conchigliette, ditalini, tubetti or orzo work well)

4 cups cooked white cannellini beans or canned beans (drained, rinsed and drained again)

Dash of hot-pepper sauce (optional)

Garnishes: pesto, Parmesan cheese, crusty bread

Spoon the flour into a shallow bowl or pie plate and season with salt and pepper. Lightly coat all sides of the pork with the seasoned flour.

Heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, then add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan, cook the pork, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes per batch, until browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the browned pork to a bowl.

Add the wine to the pot, turn the heat to high and simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon to release any bits clinging to the bottom of the pot, for 2 minutes. Pour the wine mixture into the bowl with the cooked pork and set aside.

Turn the heat to low and add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Add the carrots, celery, 2 tablespoons parsley and 1 teaspoon rosemary; season with salt and pepper; and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and tomatoes, turn the heat to high, and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir in the pasta, beans and browned pork with all its juices and cook, partially covered, for 10 to 12 minutes more. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed. The soup is ready when the pork is tender and the pasta is just cooked through, still al dente. Just before serving, stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons parsley, 1 teaspoon rosemary and the hot-pepper sauce (if using).

Ladle the soup into mugs or bowls; top with a dollop of pesto, Parmesan cheese and serve with slices of crusty bread, if desired.

Yield: 8 servings

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