Meatless Mondays: Veggie Noodle Soup

All the warming feeling of the classic—but without the chicken.

(Photo: Ian Knauer)

Feb 2, 2014· 2 MIN READ
Ian Knauer is a regular contributor to TakePart. He has worked for Gourmet and is the author of the IACP Award–nominated cookbook The Farm.

Why meatless on Mondays? Not only is eating less animal protein a healthy diet choice, but curbing your meat consumption can have a significant environmental impact too. In 2006 the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that animal agriculture accounted for a full 19 percent of greenhouse gases—more than the transportation sector. Best of all, with recipes like these, going meatless can be a delicious weekly habit.

Two words: polar vortex. Three letters: WTF? One thing to do: soup.

I’ve been trying, like most of us, to look on the bright side. Sweaters are great. I’ve been wearing one every day. Also, knit caps are so cozy. Last night I wore one to bed. An actual nightcap.

My days are spent wondering which meal I can make to warm me from the inside, and of course the answer is soup. Chicken noodle, with its warming broth and fall-apart noodles, is a go-to gut reaction to weather like this. Of course there are ways to get great flavor into noodle soup without the chicken.

Leeks add depth and a slight sweetness, and the Parmesan rind, an otherwise inedible chunk that most folks just toss, brings umami to the broth. (Pro tip: Keep a Ziploc of old Parm rinds in your fridge. Every time you’re craving deep, meatless flavor, toss one into your soup or stock.) I’ve left the cheese rind optional here for those who are put off by the idea of adding any sort of dairy to their diet, but it’s a great way to add subtle, comforting flavor to this soup.

One more tip: Half of the satisfaction factor of noodle soup comes from the mouth feel of the noodles. They need to be the right texture to really do the trick. We’re going for the opposite of al dente here. These noodles are so soft that any real nonna would cry, and I’ve found that the perfect noodle for that supersoft yet not-falling-apart texture is ramen.

Veggie Noodle Soup

Serves 4

2 large leeks

8 parsley sprigs

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 bay leaf

1 Parmesan rind (optional)

3 cups water

1 (4 oz.) package ramen noodles, flavoring packets discarded

Cut the white and pale parts of the leeks into 1/2-inch pieces, and wash them in a bowl of cold water, lifting the leeks out of the water with your fingers. Pick the leaves from the parsley and reserve. Wash the green parts of the leeks, and tie them in a bundle with the parsley stems.

Heat the oil in a medium-heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until hot, then sauté the leek whites and onion, stirring occasionally until translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the carrots, celery, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and bay leaf and cook, stirring, until the garlic is golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in the Parmesan rind (if using), add the water, and bring to a simmer. Simmer the soup until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes, then remove the leek greens and the bay leaf. Stir in the noodles and cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste and serve sprinkled with the parsley leaves.