Black-Bean-ChiliSoup’s always in season, but it’s especially soothing this time of year. Get a cache of comforting recipes in Lynn Alley’s 50 Simple Soups for the Slow Cooker. Alley’s vegetarian and vegan combinations are distinctive,such as Cabbage Dal With Chile and Toasted Coconut or Mexican Tomato-Chile Soup With Orange Juice and Zest. This season, good choices include these hearty,comforting bean bowls.

Pasta e Fagioli

Also known as “pasta fazool,” this is another rustic Italian favorite, and like minestrone and ribollita, its contents may vary from season to season, region to region, and cook to cook. Perhaps the main difference between pasta e fagioli (which means “pasta and beans”) and the other classic Italian soups is the addition of pasta. While ditalini or small elbow macaroni are traditional, there are many other interesting types of pasta that would also work well.
Borlotti (cranberry) beans are also traditional,but I’ve made this soup using pinquitos, white beans, and a 10-bean mixture, all with good results. Use as many Parmesan cheese rinds as you’d like.

Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, finely choppedSoup
1 cup dried borlotti (cranberry) beans
5 cups water
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 celery ribs, sliced
Parmesan cheese rinds
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1⁄2 cup uncooked ditalini or other small tubular pasta
1⁄4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1⁄4 cup chopped fresh parsley (see Note)

In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer.
Transfer the mixture to a 7-quart slow cooker and add the beans, water, carrots, celery, Parmesan rinds, and tomato sauce. Cover and cook on LOW for about 6 hours, or until the beans are tender.
About 1 hour before serving, stir in the ditalini and add the salt to taste. Cook for about 1 hour, or until the ditalini is cooked al dente.
Ladle your soup into bowls and serve each with a dusting of Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of parsley.

NOTE: A typical Italian finish for a soup is to drizzle fruity olive oil over the top of each serving at the table. You could do that instead of or in addition to the parsley and Parmesan.

TD&N Nutrient Analysis (based on 4 servings): Calories: 352; Total Fat: 10 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g; Monounsaturated Fat: 5 g; Cholesterol: 5 mg;Sodium: 476 mg; Carbohydrates: 51 g; Fiber: 15 g;Protein: 18 g