Hearty but not too heavy, this is a wonderful dish for summer and autumn, when there are so many vegetables at the peak of flavour. You can use all sorts of greens—simply adjust the cooking time accordingly. Be creative!
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, white part only, cut into thin strips
1 small onion, chopped
½ carrot, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, chopped
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
⅓ cup (50 g) cooked ham, trimmed and chopped
2 cups (100 g) very finely shredded silverbeet or English spinach
3 small ripe tomatoes, diced
3 cups (750 ml) salt-reduced chicken or vegetable stock
3 cups (750 ml) water
pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
pepper to taste
250 g small pasta shapes, such as conchigliette (shells) or ditalini (small thimbles)
2 cups (50 g) thinly sliced or torn fresh basil
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
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Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the leek and onion and cook for 5 minutes or until slightly softened. Stir in the carrot, garlic, fennel seeds, parsley and ham and continue cooking for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the shredded greens and the tomatoes, then cover the pan. Cook for 2 minutes or until the greens are slightly softened, then pour in the chicken stock and water. Add the chilli flakes, if using. Season to taste with pepper. Bring to the boil, then simmer over a medium–high heat for 5 minutes or until the shredded greens are just tender.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling water according to the packet instructions, about 8–10 minutes. Drain well.
Divide the pasta among four serving bowls. Ladle the soup into the bowls and sprinkle with the basil and grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.
Some more ideas…
• Other greens that are good in this soup include pak choy, Chinese leaves and watercress. Coarser leaves will take a little more time to cook.
MIDDLE EASTERN LEAFY GREEN SOUP • Omit the ham and use salt-reduced vegetable stock. • Stir ⅔ cup (160 g) plain low-fat yoghurt into the soup, with the pan off the heat. • Add ¼ cup (15 g) chopped fresh coriander leaves and the juice of ½ lemon (or to taste). • Serve hot, sprinkled with paprika and cayenne pepper to taste.
For a CHINESE-STYLE SOUP, • Omit the fennel seeds, parsley, ham, basil and parmesan cheese, and spice the soup with 1–2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger sauteed with the onions. Add salt-reduced soy sauce to taste. • Add 100 g firm tofu, cut into small cubes.
Dark green leafy vegetables such as silverbeet and English spinach provide good amounts of betacarotene, as well as the B vitamins niacin, folate and B6.