In my experience, that’s not a realistic timeline for any healthy meal, so I immediately assume that someone saying that is either stretching the truth a little or using a whole lot of processed ingredients.
In this case, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, the blogger admitted that she'd underestimated the time. But I have to say that it isn't by much. This really and truly is a quick recipe. Maybe not 10 minutes. But 20-30 minutes, easy. And that's still pretty darned good by any measure.
And it's also delicious, hearty, healthy, and family and budget friendly. A keeper, for sure.
For starters, I eliminated the call for sugar in her recipe. We tend to eat way too much sugar in this country as it is, so the last thing I’m looking for is seeing it added to main meal recipes that don’t need sweet flavoring at all.
I also almost doubled the amount of spinach and tomato product, substituted plain salt for the much more expensive kosher salt, and skipped the canned broth with its expense and sodium load.
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In this case, it seemed to me that the original recipe here begged for pasta, so I added it.
You see, I don’t believe in eliminating entire food groups from a diet. I would feel terribly deprived if someone told me I had to give up bread and pasta, so that approach to food would simply not be sustainable for me.
What we do instead, and what I recommend, is to focus on whole grain varieties of pasta, bread, and rice, as much as possible.
We enjoy our diet using this approach and have included plenty of grains in our menus our entire lives, all the while maintaining excellent health and fitness. So I see no reason to jump on the no-bread, no-grain bandwagon at all.
It’s just a terrific, fast and easy recipe for busy households and a delicious, satisfying one besides. It particularly hits the spot on this dreary February day, but I could see it as a meal option for just about any time of the year.
Here’s the recipe:
Makes approximately 8 hearty servings
Total Prep Time – 10 minutes
Total Start to Finish Time – 20-30 minutes
Recipe Cost – approximately $7.50
Total per person meal cost with fresh bread and salad – approximately $1.75
1 medium-large onion
4-6 cloves of garlic
3 tablespoons canola oil
7 cups of water (to start)
1 can diced tomatoes - 28-32-ounce size
3 ounces tomato paste (optional)
4 cans white beans – 15-16 ounce size
1 cup ditalini or other small pasta, preferably whole grain
1 package frozen, chopped spinach (10-16 ounce size)
½-¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon salt (to taste)
1 teaspoon black pepper (to taste)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (or a little more than ½ teaspoon each of rosemary, basil, thyme, and oregano)
- Heat the 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pot with a lid over medium heat.
- Meanwhile, cut the ends off the onion and peel it. Cut it in half through the stems. Place each half flat side down and slice lengthwise into strips about ¼-inch in width. Cut across the strips to created diced onions about ¼-inch in size.
- Add the onions to the heated oil and stir to distribute well. Cook them, stirring often, for about 5-6 minutes, until they are becoming translucent.
- Meanwhile cut the tips off the 4-6 garlic cloves and peel them. Mince the cloves in a garlic press (some presses allow you to mince them with the peel still on, to save a step, so you might want to see if your press does that).
- Add the minced garlic to the translucent onions, and cook an additional minute or two, stirring frequently.
- Add the 7 cups of water, the 28-32 ounces of diced tomatoes, the optional tomato paste, the 1 tablespoon of salt, the 1 teaspoon of black pepper, and the 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning to the pot, and stir to mix well. Cover, and turn the burner to high.
- Bring the contents of the pot to a boil. Once it is boiling, stir in the 1 cup of ditalini or other small pasta. Re-cover the pot and bring it back to a boil.
- Turn the heat back to medium and set a timer for the recommended al dente cooking time on the pasta package, typically 7-11 minutes.
- Meanwhile, thaw the frozen spinach in a microwavable container or package for about 5 minutes on low power.
- Also while the pasta is cooking, open, drain and rinse the beans in a colander.
- When the timer for the pasta goes off, stir in the thawed spinach, the drained beans and the ½-¾ cup of Parmesan cheese, and heat through for several minutes.
- Adjust liquid levels by adding more water, if desired. Taste test and adjust seasonings to your preferences.
- Serve the soup with a side of tossed, green salad and unsliced, fresh bread for a terrific, satisfying meal.