Comfort Food

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In about 3 quarts of water, cook about 1 cup of rice, or diallini or salad macs (I use whole wheat macaroni) and 1 medium diced potato (skin left on.) Add the sauce (the sauce refers to the rest of the recipe, below.) Salt to taste. Cook until rice or ditalini are cooked. Add 1 can kidney beans or Roman beans (I use 1.5 cups kidney and add 1.5 cups garbanzos to replace the meat in the recipe.)


  • 2 T cooking oil or chopped salt pork (I use cooking oliveoil)
  • 1 T ground pork (again, I leave this out usually, although Gimme Lean “ground beef” is a great veggie substitute in this recipe if you want to leave that element of flavor/texture in the dish)
  • 1 large or 2 medium cloves garlic
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup tomato or tomato juice (my mom always uses juice, so that’s generally what I use, but this is a great place to use up some over-ripe tomatoes in the summer too)salt to taste

If chopped salt pork is used, sauté it a bit before adding. With oil, you can start right off. Sauté until ground meat is dry (mom’s note is to add the garlic with the meat, it was left out of the recipe by great grandma). Add the parsley and tomato. Allow it to simmer about 1/2 hour. (Add the “sauce” to the water, potato, and pasta, then do the simmering.)

We’ve all got them. I’m talking about comfort foods that bring back a very specific memory or warm feeling from childhood. Many of mine are not-so-healthy, but one of the big exceptions is my great grandma Fiocchi’s Italian bean soup. While I have vague memories of my still-agile great grandmother bustling in her kitchen making this soup when I was very, very young, my real memories of this soup are from my mother’s kitchen. I adored this soup, the tender bits of potato were my very favorite part, my mom always cut them very small and uniform and there was something about that exact way she chopped them every time that made the soup extra special for me.

And there was this flavor, this one really rich flavor in it that I couldn’t put my finger on as a child or teen. I now know it was the flavor of gobs of fresh parsley adding it to, any soup or sauce is still an almost guaranteed way to make me fall in love with a dish.

All of great grandma’s recipes that had been transcribed directly from great grandma by one of her daughters and my mom photocopied them all and gave them to me to use in my own kitchen when I got married. Even though I only use a few of the recipes now as a vegetarian (many contain meat) and others I just haven’t gotten around to trying, this collection of recipes is to this day my most
treasured wedding present. The food processor died long ago, the towel sets wore out, but this collection of recipes still has a special place on my cookbook shelf.

I’ve made adjustments to the way my great grandma prepared the soup, but the happy warm feeling it brings me to taste it is just the same. I look forward to passing the recipe down to my son some day. Maybe on his wedding day.

Here is the recipe as I inherited it, exactly as my great grandma dictated it, meat left in. It’s a very simple recipe with few ingredients, like all recipes for the best comfort food. There are lots of recipes that are complex and intricate that we can bring out to enliven a celebration or holiday, but comfort food is meant to be easy, everyday food.

I’ve added my adjustments and comments in parenthesis. And yes, it is very, very affordable to make, even with the ground pork. To make it a truly “Food for All” recipe, steal a page from the Italians by putting a piece or hunk of stale bread in the bottom of each serving bowl and ladling the soup over. Not only do you get to use up bread that otherwise might have gone to waste, it adds a delicious heartiness and texture to the soup.

About Jacqueline Hannah

Jacqueline Hannah is the general manager of Common Ground cooperative.
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