Mediterranean Eggplant Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 large celery stalks, finely diced
5 cups water
2 medium eggplants (about 1 1/2 pounds in all), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 teaspoons Italian herb mix
1 cup raw pasta, any small shape such as shells or twists
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

1. Heat oil in a soup pot. Add onion, garlic, and celery and saute over medium heat until onion is golden. Add water, eggplant dice, tomatoes, and herb mix. Bring to a simmer, then simmer gently, covered, until the eggplant is tender, about 45 minutes.

2. In the meantime, cook the pasta separately until it is al dente. Drain and stir into the soup along with the parsley. Adjust the consistency if the soup has gotten too thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. Simmer over very low heat another 15 minutes. Serve at once, or let soup stand an hour or so before serving, then heat through as needed.

Serves 6 to 8.

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