Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Macaroni Soup

It’s rainy again, which is kind of pleasant. I enjoy rain as long as we get some non-rainy days too. And we’ve had a good mix this summer. But I do feel that rainy weather calls for different types of food than hot sunny or humid weather. I need a bit more warmth and comfort in whatever I’m eating. I like to take advantage of eating for the mood.

We made a pot roast with new onions, carrots and potatoes a few days ago (on a rainy day). It did us two days and then I turned the leftover bone, beef and broth into a macaroni soup, which did us another two days.

It wasn’t until I was a fully fledged adult, living on my own that I began to appreciate macaroni soup. I hated it when I lived at home. My mother and my brother loved it, and would both get quite excited when it was made. I disliked every ingredient in it, and the finished product. I would sit in front of my bowl, fishing out individual macaroni noodles and then try to make excuses to get out eating the rest of it. Sometimes I would sit there for hours. Luckily for me, macaroni soup was usually a lunch meal, and therefore optional.

Now I’m impressed by its economy, its tomato-i-ness, the mix of treasures floating around in the lovely red broth. I think it’s a pretty soup, excellent with grilled cheese sandwiches.

The biggest challenge to making this soup is the danger of the macaroni taking over. I have experienced macaroni soup emergencies where extra tomatoes, broth, and even water, in dire emergencies, have been added to counteract the swelling macaroni noodles. They look harmless at first, and you think, “I’ll just add another handful…” and then suddenly your macaroni ratio is way out of control.

I believe the beef is actually optional, but other macaroni soup purists would disagree with me. Sometimes, I’ll just braise stewing beef and use that for macaroni soup.

Macaroni Soup
About ½ - 1C leftover pot roast (optional)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil or butter (optional)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
About 1 C beef or vegetable broth
1 large can of whole tomatoes (796ml) with their juice or about 8 large late summer juicy tomatoes plus another 1-2 C broth.
Pinch of oregano
2 stems of celery, including leaves, sliced thinly
3 handfuls of dried macaroni (about 1 ½ C)
Fresh ground pepper

1. In your soup pot, saute the onions and garlic until softened and exuding juices. If you’re using the leftover pot roast soup pot, you may not need anything extra to sauté them in. If you’re starting fresh, you’ll need a bit of oil or butter to get started with.
2. Add the beef, if using, and sauté briefly.
3. Add the tomatoes. Crush the tomatoes a bit to break them up.
4. Add the additional broth, and more if required for the right consistency.
5. Add the celery and oregano.
6. If you have happened to add a bit too much liquid, cook the soup down a bit to a nice consistency (not watery, not quite like stew- it should be something perfect in between).
7. If you think you do not have enough liquid, add some more broth.
8. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
9. Add the macaroni and stir. I recommend letting it cook before adding additional macaroni. 10. Add only a little bit more at a time, if you feel you need a higher noodle ratio.
11. Your soup is ready when your macaroni noodles are cooked.


Sharon said...

OK, the beef is definitely NOT optional in my book! I always used the pan drippings & broth for the soup the following day (or as you said, cook some beef specifically for the soup), always braising the beef for best flavours.
As for the macaroni, I've solved that problem! Cook your pasta, drain it and only add it to the individual soup bowls (both being hot of course). I keep the extra pasta in a bag and in the fridge for the next day. No more swelling pasta rather it's always just the right amount!

Nerine said...

I think one of the advantages of cooking the macaroni in the broth was to allow the noodles to seep up the flavour of the broth.