Every year, the first cold day in New Orleans always reminds me of when I was a kid and my dad would make a pot of vegetable beef soup big enough to feed an army. It drove my mother crazy (one day of leftovers is her limit), but it was fine by me because I loved my dad’s vegetable beef soup. I could eat it for days.
Pop would start off by boiling a small beef roast until it was tender enough to cut with a fork. He’d add tomato paste to the beef broth and then add corn, green beans, carrots, onion, celery, parsley, garlic and white potatoes. And when I was very young, he’d add a can of Campbell’s soup with alphabets in it. When I got too old for that, he’d use thin spaghetti snapped into tiny pieces to add heft to the soup.
When I began making my own soup, I experimented with different meats, vegetables and grains. I love the heartiness of a pasta e fagioli or minestrone, and my version of vegetable beef is influenced by the richness of those two variations: lots of vegetables, a hearty grain or pasta, a sumptuous tomato based-broth, and beef to make it stick to your ribs.
Served with shaved parmesan cheese and a few slices of crusty French bread, vegetable beef soup can’t be beat on the first cold day in the South.