A few years ago I was really desperate to find ways to get vegetables into my younger son. I had tried the battles, I had tried the pleading, and now I was trying to use the division of responsibility approach, which meant that I would choose what foods were offered but that he then would have the freedom to choose what he ate out of what was on the table and there would be no special meals or negotiations. What that meant for our family was that some nights I made a dinner that had vegetables on the side, which he almost never ate, and some nights I made a one-pot meal that included the vegetables in the dish. Often times he would pick around the vegetables, but sometimes I would find a dish that he loved so much that he would plow right through, not even noticing the vegetables.
There were two types of one-pot meals that tended to work for us. Soups and baked pastas. The kid loved (and still loves) pureed vegetables soups, which was very helpful when I felt like I was going to lose my mind. And while he would sometimes pick around the vegetables in a baked pasta, some strays would make it into his mouth and he was always cheerful when pasta was involved. Win-win. So when I discovered lasagna soup I knew I had to give it a go.
The first time I made it, he took one looks and said, “too many vegetables!” I explained that this was dinner and told him he could just eat the pasta and the broth, if he wanted. He looked at my skeptically but grudgingly agreed once he saw the big dollop of cheese that went into the bowl. The next thing I knew, his bowl was empty, except for a few stray vegetable pieces, and he wanted more! We had a winner!
Basically, lasagna soup contains all of the components of a vegetarian spinach lasagna, but in soup form. It is bright and cheerful to look at, packed with vegetables, absolutely delicious, and is ready to eat in the time it would take you just to assemble the lasagna!! Over the years I have tried different spins on the soup and, in the end, have come to this version as our go-to because it is simple, ready in 30 minutes, and immensely delicious!
- 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 ½ teaspoons salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
- 8 oz (½ box) of pasta noodles of your choice (shells and pipe rigate are our favorites)
- 4 cups baby spinach, chopped
- 1 cup (1/2 a tub) ricotta cheese
- ½ cup parmesan
- In a large pot, heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat until it is shimmering, but not smoking. Turn down the heat to medium and add the onion, carrot, and celery and sauté until the onion is translucent.
- Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add the stock, tomatoes, oregano, 2 teaspoons of salt, basil, thyme, bay leaf, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil.
- When the soup has reached a boil, add the pasta and set a timer for 2 minutes less than the recommended cooking time on the pasta box.
- While the pasta cooks, roughly chop the baby spinach.
- In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, and remaining ½ teaspoons of salt and pepper and stir well.
- When the timer goes off, add the spinach and continue cooking for two more minutes or until the pasta is done. Serve immediately with a good dollop (about 2 Tablespoons to ¼ cup) of the cheese mixture on top.