YOU Magazine - December 2015 - Hearty Meals in a Bowl By Kirk Leins
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Hearty Meals in a Bowl
By Kirk Leins

Hearty Meals in a Bowl - By Kirk Leins

At this busy time of year, getting a healthy dinner on the table can be difficult. Here are two hearty and satisfying dishes that are both easy to prepare and delicious.

Pasta e Fagioli
Translated to "pasta and beans," this Italian classic is often known by Italian-Americans as "Pasta Fazool." Pasta e Fagioli is a hearty, broth-based soup filled with chopped aromatic veggies, tomatoes, white beans and any small-shaped pasta.
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 14-ounce can of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 Parmigiano Reggiano rind (optional)
  • 1 can of white cannellini beans, drained
  • 1/4 cup elbow pasta
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped fresh basil
Heat olive oil in a soup pot. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic, and sauté for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, bay leaves, dried herbs, chicken stock, water and cheese rind. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add beans and pasta, and continue to simmer until pasta is cooked—about another 8 minutes. Remove and discard cheese rind, and season soup with salt and pepper. Serve in bowls garnished with basil ... and maybe another drizzle of olive oil.

Potato and Leek Soup
This dish combines the texture of a hearty soup with the taste of a baked potato. It is a quick and easy dish to prepare, and it gladly accepts any topping normally associated with an oven-baked spud. On one hand, this dish is rustic, but it also has the ability to be elegant.
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 large leeks, white and light green parts roughly chopped and washed well
  • 4 cups canned chicken broth
  • 3 russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot, heat oil until hot. Add onion and leeks, and sauté for 3 minutes. Add chicken broth and potatoes. Bring the stock to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cover and allow the mixture to simmer for 20 minutes. Take the pot off the stove and, using an immersion blender, process until smooth. (You may also use either a blender or a food processor to process your soup. When doing so, simply allow the soup to cool slightly and work in batches.) Return the pot to the stovetop, and place over a low heat. Add the cream, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and allow the soup to simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Ladle into soup bowls and serve.

For a low-fat version of this soup, simply omit the cream and substitute extra chicken stock.

Once again, almost anything you'd put atop your baked potato would work as a topping for this soup: sour cream, chives, cheese, bacon, crispy shallots and minced scallions are all tremendous additions. Serve your soup alongside a green salad, and you've got a complete meal.

Kirk Leins has been cooking his entire life. No stranger to professional kitchens, he currently devotes most of his time to cooking instruction, food writing, and producing television. Kirk also provides his services as a personal chef in and around the Los Angeles area. He has made several TV appearances on both the national and local level, and is the Executive Chef for YOU Magazine. Sign up for Kirk's free newsletter and cooking blog at

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