Gameday Slow Cooker Pasta e Fagioli Soup

With the recent snow and freezing temps in Denver, there was no better time for me to take out that old slow cooker and whip up a nice warm soup. Nothing screams winter like a hearty stew… and just in time for a weekend of football, too!

Resembling a chili (but way better), this recipe has tons of beefy bean and tomato goodness, with more veggies and a plethora of pasta to top it off. Throw it in the slow cooker in the morning and you’ll have a crowd pleasing, well-rounded complement to all that beer, in plenty of time for the afternoon and evening games. Plus, the leftovers will last you all the way til next weekend!image

Makes 10-12 servings
Ideal slow cooker size:  6 quart

Slow Cooker Pasta e Fagioli Soup

  • 1lb ground beef (I always use at least 90% lean… you can also use ground turkey if you choose)
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, finely sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 2 (15 oz) cans beef broth
  • 1 (15 oz) can red kidney beans, with liquid
  • 1 (15oz) can great northern beans, with liquid
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste, if needed
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 8 oz dry pasta (I used mezzi rigatoni – slightly smaller versions than the original – because it gives the soup a heartier look. Feel free to use ditalini or even shells if you prefer smaller noodles)
  • Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley, for serving

Brown ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink, lightly seasoning with salt & pepper. Drain then add to a large slow cooker. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, kidney beans, great northern beans, salt, oregano, basil, thyme and pepper.

Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours, or until veggies are tender.

Add in apple juice (I know it sounds weird but trust me on this one. It gives the soup a slightly tangier touch, a whole new dimension of flavor).

When you are just about ready to serve, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until just under al dente. Drain, then add to the soup and let cook for about 5-10 more minutes.  (if you add the uncooked pasta straight to the slow cooker it will absorb all the liquid and all you’ll be left with is pasta and veggies. That defeats the purpose!)

Salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into serving bowls and top with Parmesan cheese and a little sprig of parsley to garnish.



Caprese Chicken

One thing that you should probably note about myself and my cooking is that I’m not huge into red meat. Actually, I would stay away from it entirely if it weren’t for a certain gentleman in my life who does, from time to time, need some cow in his life. But I am definitely more of a chicken girl. For some odd reason, I simply find piece of mind in the idea that boneless, skinless chicken breasts have much less fat than, for instance, a steak. That being said, there are actually cuts of beef and pork that are just as lean as chicken, and sometimes even more so. In fact, tons of research has been done about the pros and cons of eating red meat that it seems like nobody can really come up with a clean cut answer about whether or not you should include red meat in your diet. But despite all the reading I have done on the subject, I still like to tell myself that chicken is better.

DSC02020Also, I just love the ease of cooking with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I usually buy frozen ones wholesale from Costco, then whenever I need them in a recipe I just pop a couple in the fridge for the day to let them defrost. Then I throw them on the Griddler for a few minutes on each side and zip, bam boom! They’re good to go. I find this to be much more cost-effective than buying fresh meat every week at the store.

So, here you go, another chicken recipe. This one both Nick and I enjoyed because it was relatively easy to prepare, but the ingredients were so fresh and vibrant that they added a different twist on just a simple grilled chicken dish. Plus, we just got back from Italy, and loved digging up memories of all the delicious tomatoes and fresh mozzarella we enjoyed (literally all you have to do is stick me in a room with a mountain of Caprese salad and I will die happy).

Caprese Chicken

Adapted from The Novice Chef Blog

  • 4 skinless chicken breasts
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 10 large basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 8 oz shredded mozzarella (I always recommend using fresh Buffalo Mozzarella, which is made and used in Italy and the flavor and texture is to-die-for; but it is so expensive in American grocery stores that I only use it in recipes as a rare treat)
  • balsamic vinegar, to taste

DSC02021Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken breasts and cook them according to your preference. As I said, I prefer using a Griddler. You could also sauté them in a pan with some olive oil over medium-high heat, or on a an actual grill. Whichever method you choose, cook the chicken until browned and cooked thoroughly, or has reached an internal temp of 165°F.

While chicken is cooking, in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add tomatoes and continue sautéing until soft and skin starts to wrinkle, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in basil. Set aside.

Once chicken has reached desired doneness, top each chicken breast with shredded mozzarella (if using fresh, cover with two thin slices). Pour tomato mixture on top. Cover pan with lid once more and let the mozzarella melt, about 1-2 minutes.

Lastly, drizzle with a splash of balsamic vinegar and serve immediately.