The weather is still cool enough to call for soup. Sniffles, colds, and sore throats often demand hot soup and this one fits the bill. Soup doesn’t get more basic or comforting than a Vegetable Alphabet Soup. It’s easy to make, healthy and filling and the alphabet pasta is bound to cheer up fussy children and grown-ups too. I’m pretty grown up and yet the child in my always gets excited to see alphabets in my soup. If you have never tried it, go ahead and make this soup. Then tell me you weren’t fascinated by the letters floating in your soup.
I really can’t remember my first time with alphabet pasta. I’m sure it’s somewhere back in my childhood years when some sort of pasta used to feature once a week for lunch. I remember the thrill of rediscovering alphabet pasta when I came across it on the supermarket shelf in Goa. My daughter, as a toddler and even when older, was quite happy to eat an alphabet pasta dish.
After all these years of knowing the alphabet pasta, I decided to look into its history. While I doubt it is a traditional Italian variety of pasta, I wondered where it could have originated. Not surprisingly, alphabet pasta seems to be American in origin. A turn of the century tale tells of a pasta factory worker who accidentally made a pasta that looked like a “C”. This apparently inspired the supervisor to try making alphabet pasta.
Alphabet pasta was very popular in Northern America in the early 1900s. This pasta was eaten in a broth that was sold in cans or cooked in spaghetti or marinara sauce. Aphabet pasta was known as early as 1867 though I couldn’t find the exact circumstances of its origin.
Alphabet pasta finds a small mention in the then Raleigh newspaper, the Tri-Weekly Standard, that, “… The latest culinary novelty is alphabetical soup. Instead of the usual cylindric and star shaped morsels of macaroni which have hitherto given body to our broth, the letters of the alphabet have been substituted. These letters of paste preserve their forms in passing through the pot.”
If you cannot find alphabet pasta you can substitute with any other very small pasta shapes. It might not be as much fun but will not change the soup in any other way. You can use stock instead of water to make the soup. I prefer water here because there are enough vegetables in this soup for flavour.
Vegetable Alphabet Soup
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp minced garlic or garlic paste
- 1 medium onion minced
- 1/2 medium onion chopped
- 1 medium potato peeled and diced
- 1 large carrot peeled and diced
- 1/2 cup chopped green beans
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 1/2 cup frozen sweet corn
- 2 tbsp tomato puree/ ketchup
- 4 cups to 5water
- 1/2 cup cooked black eyed beans
- 1/2 cup alphabet pasta
- 1 tsp toasted and crushed cumin
- Salt to taste
- Crushed black pepper to taste
- 1 1/2 tsp dried Italian herbs
- In a large pot, heat the oil and butter. Adding oil to the butter prevents the butter from burning. Add the garlic and onion and sauté till the onion turns translucent and the raw smell of garlic disappears.
- Add all the vegetables and sauté for a couple of minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add a little salt and let the soup simmer till the vegetables are cooked. If the soup seems to thick, you can add a little more water to adjust the consistency.
- Add the beans, the pasta, the cumin and crushed black pepper, and cook for another 5 minutes or so. Adjust salt to taste. Stir in the herbs. Serve hot.
- This soup can be cooled, stored in a covered container and frozen for about a month. It will also keep refrigerated for about 3 days.