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How-To

Soup Suppers

Turn to the pantry for a satisfying one-pot meal

Fine Cooking Issue 96
Photos: Scott Phillips
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The pantry—with a little planning—is a great source of quick weeknight meals. And soup is one of the easiest things to whip up if you have the right ingredients at the ready. The trick is to keep the cupboard, fridge, and freezer stocked so that all you need is on hand—no last minute grocery runs required.

Four Delicious Soups from the Pantry

Black Bean Soup with Sweet Potatoes
Spiced Tomato & Red Lentil Soup
Root Vegetable & Barley Soup with Bacon
Pasta e Fagioli

Stock up

With these items in your kitchen, you’ll have everything you need to make the soups here, and do a little improvising, too.

In the pantry

  • Canned or boxed chicken broth
  • Canned diced tomatoes
  • Canned beans and dried lentils
  • Dried herbs and spices
  • Small pasta shapes like orzo, tubettini, acini de pepe, and ditalini
  • Quick-cooking grains like rice, pearl barley, and bulgur
  • Tomato paste
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Coconut milk
  • Thai curry paste
  • Dried chiles
  • Chile pastes, hot sauces
  • Canned chipotle chiles in adobo
  • Canned roasted green chiles
  • Dried mushrooms
  • Canned straw mushrooms
  • Sun-dried tomatoes

In the fridge

  • Hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano
  • Citrus fruit like lemons, oranges, and limes
  • Root vegetables like carrots, parsnips, and turnips
  • Celery
  • Crème fraîche, sour cream, plain yogurt, and buttermilk
  • Flavorful oils like chile oil, nut oils, and sesame oil

In the freezer

  • Homemade vegetable, chicken, and beef broths
  • Bread (for croutons or for thickening)
  • Bacon
  • Shrimp
  • Small stuffed pastas like raviolini and tortellini
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Edamame

The big chill

These soups freeze easily, so they’re great instant meals for busy nights.

Chill soup thoroughly before freezing; this allows it to freeze faster. The ice crystals that form will be smaller, so your soup will have better texture and flavor.

Freeze soup in plastic containers, leaving about a half inch at the top to allow for expansion. Or fill plastic freezer bags about three-quarters full and squeeze out as much air as possible.

Freeze soups in large amounts or in smaller, portion-size containers that are ready to heat and serve. The smaller the container, the quicker it will freeze and defrost.

Before freezing, cover, label, and date your soup. As a general rule, stocks and broths can be frozen for up to six months; vegetable soups, about four months; meat, fish, or chicken soups, about three months; and soups with egg and cream, about two months.

Keep a thermometer in the freezer to make sure the temperature remains constant at 0°F. If you’re freezing a large quantity at once, turn the thermostat to its coldest setting until the soup freezes.

Leave the soup in its container and defrost in the refrigerator, microwave oven, or under cold running water. You can also remove it from the container and reheat the frozen soup in a saucepan over low heat. A microwave oven is better for small amounts of soup.

Serve soup as soon as possible after defrosting.

Don’t be alarmed if puréed soup separates after defrosting. To fix it, just whisk it back together.

Be aware that soups containing cream, wine, or lemon juice (or those thickened with eggs or flour) don’t always freeze well. When reheating, simmer gently and whisk constantly to prevent curdling. Or better yet, add these ingredients after reheating.

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