When I come in from the bitter cold with a red nose and frozen toes, I want something warm and comforting … but still healthy. This fragrant, Italian-flavored soup is the epitome of comfort food, is wholesome and nourishing, and really hits the spot.
But I Don’t Like Tofu!
Pop a brick of that bland, texture-less stuff in the freezer, wait about 24 hours (Yes, you want to do this step ahead of time. I just keep a block of tofu on hand in the freezer for whenever I need it.), let it thaw, and you’ll be amazed at the transformation. The texture becomes chewy, and it beautifully takes on the delicious flavors of this luscious soup.
Try it, Mikey. You’ll like it.
What Is Fennel?
An optional ingredient in this recipe, fennel bulb (or Florence fennel or finocchio) is an aromatic, crunchy (when raw), slightly sweet vegetable with a white bulb, light green stalks, and feathery leaves. It adds a wonderful depth of flavor to this Italian soup.
For years I avoided fennel in the grocery store because, really, what kind of crazy person would want to eat a vegetable that tastes like Twizzlers? Then, my friend, Elizabeth (who actually grew her own fennel in her garden) made me a creamy dish with fennel in it and I loved it! And it didn’t taste like licorice.
So, with that culinary catalyst from Elizabeth, I decided to try cooking with fennel bulb, and now you have this delicious Italian Vegetable Soup.
- 1/2 pound frozen, extra-firm, water-packed (not silken) tofu, thawed (I use Nasoya tofu.)
- 3 medium carrots. sliced or diced
- 3 medium stalks celery, sliced or diced
- 1 cup diced fennel bulb – optional
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 cups water or broth
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons granulated onion
- 2 teaspoons dried minced onion
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/4 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
- 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup uncooked small shell or spiral pasta (I use Tinkyada brand pasta.)
- Squeeze excess water out of tofu. Cut into small cubes and place on a paper towel or clean kitchen towel to drain.
- In a large soup pot, sauté carrot, celery, fennel, and onion in oil over medium (not high) heat until onion begins to turn translucent.
- Add garlic and sauté for one additional minute.
- Turn heat to high and add water, fresh parsley, and seasonings. Cover and bring to boil.
- When water comes to boil, stir in pasta. Boil, uncovered, until pasta is tender. (Cooking time will vary depending on type of pasta used.)
- Add tofu during last one minute of cooking time.