Keep a check on holiday calories with hearty 'House' soup

  • Soupalooza's M. Eileen Brown turns to this hearty winter soup to keep a handle on calories that seem to mount at holiday gatherings and dinners.

      Soupalooza's M. Eileen Brown turns to this hearty winter soup to keep a handle on calories that seem to mount at holiday gatherings and dinners. M. Eileen Brown | Staff Photographer

Posted12/7/2022 6:00 AM

When I look at my calendar for December, all I see are calories.

It's a land mine of get-togethers, restaurant meals and outings that add up to a January of regret. I suppose it could be avoided with a little bit of dietary strategy and a lot of discipline.


That's not going to happen.

The only thing I can control is what I eat on those nights when I am home writing my cards, wrapping my gifts and trying not to panic over all that I can't get done.

And the answer to that, as you can imagine, is soup. I always try to have a fresh batch on hand and some more in the freezer. This time of year, it's my dinnertime salvation.

A favorite in my house is Giada's "House" Soup, courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis. With white beans, farro, kale and Polish sausage, this soup is hearty, comforting and chock-full of nutrients. I generally make a batch with the sausage and one without to satisfy both "factions" of the household. If you haven't tried farro in a while (or ever), the nutty flavor and chewy texture are a nice change of pace to rice, potatoes or pasta in a soup.

There's fennel and leeks, too, which take it to another level. She also adds a piece of leftover Parmesan rind to the broth, which thickens it and adds a robust umami flavor -- especially nice in the vegetarian version.

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Honestly, this soup is enough to be a meal all on its own, but add some hearty rye bread and a simple salad to the menu, and you've got a very satisfying dinner on the table -- with absolutely no regrets.

• M. Eileen Brown is the Daily Herald's vice president of sales and marketing and an incurable soup-a-holic. She specializes in vegetarian soups and blogs at

Giada's "House" Soup

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 leek, white and tender green parts only, finely chopped

2 carrots, 1 finely chopped, 1 sliced

½ fennel bulb, finely chopped

Kosher salt

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¾ cup dried small white beans, such as navy

½ to ¾ cup farro


1 15-ounce-can diced tomatoes

2 quarts chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium)

2 to 3 sprigs thyme

1 2-inch piece parmesan cheese rind

13 ounces turkey or Polska kielbasa, cut into half-moons

4 to 5 large leaves Tuscan kale, ribs removed, chopped (about 2 cups)

Grated Parmesan cheese and fresh lemon juice, for serving (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the leek, chopped carrot and fennel and season with ½ teaspoon salt and the pepper flakes. Saute slowly until the vegetables are very soft but not browned.

Add the white beans and farro and toast for a minute or two, then add the tomatoes with their juices and the chicken stock, thyme, Parmesan rind and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a steady simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 1½ hours, or until the beans are tender but not mushy; they should be firm and separate. Season with salt.

Add the kielbasa, kale and sliced carrot. Cook until the kale and carrot are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove and discard the thyme sprigs and Parmesan rind. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of grated Parmesan and a squeeze of lemon.

Serves 4 to 6

Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis, from Food Network Magazine

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