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Dinner in Minutes: Soup is comforting meal in a bowl

| Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Pasta and bean soup with Italian lettuce salad is heart-warming, and can be served for two or a crowd. (C.W. Griffin/Miami Herald/MCT)

Known as Pasta e Fagioli, this soup may be one of Italy's most-famous soups. The combination of pasta and beans is heart-warming, and can be served for two or a crowd. It's perfect to serve to friends. Leave the pot on the stove for everyone to help themselves.

In Italy, they use the last bits of pasta left in various opened boxes — a great way to use up leftover pasta. This recipe calls for acini di pepe, a small, round pasta used mostly for soups. Any type of small pasta can be used.

Linda Gassenheimer is a food writer for the Miami Herald.

Italian Lettuce Salad

2 cups washed, ready-to-eat Italian-style salad

2 tablespoons reduced-fat oil and vinegar dressing

Place the salad in a bowl and toss with the dressing.

Makes 2 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 19 calories, 1 gram fat (0 saturated), 1 milligram cholesterol, 1 gram protein, 2 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram dietary fiber, 8 milligrams sodium

Pasta and Bean Soup

(Pasta e Fagioli)

1½ cups rinsed and drained cannellini beans

2 cups canned, no-salt-added, whole tomatoes, including the juice

1 cup sliced celery

1 teaspoon minced garlic

2 cups nonfat, low-sodium chicken broth

Water

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ cup acini di pepe pasta

½ cup fresh basil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

Place the beans, tomatoes and their liquid, celery and garlic in a large saucepan. Add the chicken broth and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil, breaking up the tomatoes with the edge of a spoon. Cover, lower the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the oil and pasta. Boil, uncovered, for about 8 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. Add the basil, and season with salt and pepper. Serve the soup in bowls and pass the parmesan to sprinkle on top.

Makes 2 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 538 calories, 18 grams fat (4 grams saturated), 8 milligrams cholesterol, 27 grams protein, 72 grams carbohydrates, 14 grams dietary fiber, 805 milligrams sodium.

Hints:

If making the soup in advance, leave out the pasta and add it 10 minutes before serving to finish cooking.

To make this a vegetarian dinner, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.

Canned Great Northern beans can be used instead of cannellinis.

Two crushed garlic cloves can be used instead of bought minced garlic.

Shopping list:

To buy: 1 can cannellini beans, 1 large can no-salt-added, whole tomatoes, 1 can nonfat, low-sodium chicken broth, 1 bunch celery, 1 package acini di pepe pasta, 1 bunch basil, 1 bag ready-to-eat Italian-style salad and 1 small piece Parmesan cheese.

Staples: Olive oil, reduced-fat oil and vinegar dressing, minced garlic, salt and black peppercorns.

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