Add a little extra something to your next meal from a can. 

By Stacey Ballis
December 26, 2019

Soup is one of those things I rely on for its superior versatility. It can be as fast as opening a can and three minutes in the microwave, for those days when you have no bandwidth to think about a meal or are stricken with whatever seasonal ick is flying around your office or your kid’s school. Soup is also one of the best things to make if you are dealing with a food preference, dietary restriction, medical diet or allergy. It can be low-fat, low-carb, low-sodium. It can be Whole30, paleo, or Keto. Soup can be vegan, vegetarian, or deeply meaty. It is almost always naturally gluten-free and nut-free, and many are dairy-free.

We are currently in the height of soup season, and there are plenty of recipes out there for freshly made homemade soups of every ilk. But we are also in the height of cold and flu season, and at our house, we are on day 9 of both my husband and I being stricken with the crud. The cold started in our heads, and slowly moved into our chests, and we are both without much appetite, which is fine, because we really cannot taste very much. We have limited energy, especially for things like cooking, and are subsisting almost entirely on soup. So, here are the canned soup hacks that we have actually found to be the most successful, and have allowed us to still have some variety in our diet.

Avgolemono is one of my most favorite, and most comforting soups. When I was craving it, I hacked it with a can of Campbell’s Chicken and rice soup, heated in a small pan with the juice of half a lemon. Then I whisked one egg to frothiness, tempered it with a half-cup of the hot soup, and then whisked it back into the pan. Was it the same as a made-from-scratch avgolemono? Of course not. But it was a surprisingly good version.

Two things that are always in my house are sourdough bread, because I am a sourdough baker and bake pretty much every week, and canned tomatoes, especially Italian tomatoes, because they are often significantly higher quality than fresh tomatoes. Which means that even I can make a basic Italian classic soup, pappa al pomodoro. I take a chunk of my sourdough, rip it into coarse pieces, toss in olive oil and salt and pepper, and put it on a tray in my toaster oven for one cycle. You can do it in the big oven, but at the moment I’d likely fall asleep before it would pre-heat. While my croutons are toasting, I dump a can of whole, peeled cherry tomatoes into a saucepan, fill the can with water and swish it around to get all the tomato smoosh off of it, and add it to the pot, give it a good stir and heat it up, and season to taste with salt, pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. When the croutons are toasted I pile them into shallow bowls, ladle the tomato soup over, give a good swirl of extra virgin olive oil and a scattering of shaved or grated parm, and serve.

No canned soup on hand? If you have a jar of marinara, you are almost all the way to a pretty great minestrone. I like Rao’s, but use what you have on hand. Half a jar of marinara and an equal amount of chicken broth, and any bits of vegetables you might have laying around. Carrot, celery, potato, onion are all good and likely lurking in your house. Zucchini, bell pepper, mushrooms, also great if you happen to be in possession. Some frozen peas if they are around. Heat through and season to taste with salt and pepper. Want to turn it into a pasta y fagioli? Toss in a drained can of beans or chickpeas, and a handful or two of a small pasta shape.

Tired of hot soup? Hack a spicy gazpacho. Take a tub of fresh salsa, a whole, peeled chopped cucumber, a glug of olive oil and a splash of water and blitz it to smoothness in your blender, season to taste with salt and pepper and if you are feeling perky, a dash or two of sherry vinegar. Here’s hoping however you are souping this season, that it is more often for its own sake and not because you are under the weather.

Advertisement