And the Secret Ingredient is…

In CategoryCooking

I make a killer Ham and Bean soup (she said modestly). It has not one, but TWO secret ingredients in it. I am prepared to open the vault and share the recipe. 

As you know, I am all about stocking my freezer, so this recipe makes approximately 10 quarts of soup. Cut it down if you don’t want to make that much. Get a gigantic stock pot if you do. I bought a 12 quart stock pot at WalMart several years ago for about $40 and have never regretted it. 

Ham and 15 Bean Soup

  • 2 20-ounce bags of dried 15 Bean Soup Mix
  • 2 white onions, diced
  • 3 pounds cooked ham, cubed
  • 2-ish Tablespoons garlic paste
  • 2 cans chicken broth
  • 3 48-ounce bottles of V-8 juice (secret ingredient #1)
  • 22 ounces of store-bought basil pesto (secret ingredient #2)

Rinse and soak the beans 8 – 12 hours. Sauté onions in oil in the bottom of a 12 quart, heavy-bottomed, soup pot. Add the ham and the garlic and sauté an additional 15 minutes or so. You are not trying to brown the ham, just warm it and get it to release some of its flavor. Add the soaked beans, the chicken broth, and the V-8 juice. Cover, and simmer on low for 3 or 4 hours until the beans reach desired doneness. Stir occasionally. Right before serving, add the pesto. Stir well to combine. 

This will stay fresh in the freezer for months. To serve, heat and top with grated parmesan cheese. 

That’s it! 

I have made this before with crushed tomatoes and chicken broth in addition to/instead of, the V-8. Do it however you like – this is a good soup to make with leftover ham at the holidays, or to clean out your pantry. I like the ease of using V-8, since it cuts down the ingredient list. It gives a nice, vegetable-y flavor without having to cut up a thousand vegetables. V-8 is the secret ingredient in a lot of my soups. It goes especially well in beef stew. 

Whatever you do, DO NOT SKIP THE PESTO. Pesto is THE most important ingredient. If you taste the soup before you add it, you will think it is too thin and very bland. The pesto adds an incredible richness and depth of flavor, and also thickens the soup. I know it seems like a weird ingredient, but it is the secret to a lot of my soups. I got the idea once after we ate at an Italian restaurant. When they brought my Chicken Minestrone soup, it had a big spoonful of pesto in it for me to stir in. It was delicious. I add pesto to all my chicken and turkey soups now. It can be expensive, especially at the grocery store. I buy large containers of it at Sam’s or Costco for much less. Pesto also freezes well, so you could divide it and store it that way. 

Let me know if you try it! It’s an easy, delicious freezer staple that we can thaw and eat after a busy day. I created a printable .pdf file and added it to the Printable Recipes section (left sidebar) to make it easy to add to your collection.

This recipe linked to Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop!