A hearty Ham and Bean Soup

By GRETCHEN McKAY Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Published:

It's true: If you wait long enough, the kids for whom you cooked countless meals actually will cook for you. Home for the holidays, my oldest son, Dan, made this hearty soup for the family with leftover ham. He added fresh homemade rigatoni -- Dad got a pasta extruder attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer for Christmas -- but any pasta (or no pasta at all) will do.

Like most soups, this is even better the next day. Serve with crusty bread and a green salad.

HAM AND BEAN SOUP

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 ribs celery, diced

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

2 carrots, chopped into large chunks

1 large onion, diced

1 leftover ham bone or 2 ham hocks

32-ounce can whole tomatoes and juice, broken up

10 cups water

2 cups chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 pinch red pepper flakes

Pinch or two smoked hot paprika (or more to taste)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 cheese rind, optional

15-ounce can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 pound or more of pasta

In a large stockpot, add about 3 tablespoons olive oil and saute the celery, garlic, carrots and onion. After a few minutes, add the ham bone or ham hocks and saute a few minutes more.

Break up the canned tomatoes and add to pot with juices from the can. Let the tomatoes heat up, and add the water and broth. Add dried herbs, red pepper flakes, smoked hot paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer soup for 1 to 2 hours on medium low.

Add the cheese rind, if using, and canned beans. Continue to simmer for another hour. Remove bone, pick meat off, then add meat back into the soup. Season to taste.

Cook the pasta according to package directions and drain. Add cooked pasta to soup.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with grated parmesan cheese, sauteed greens or favorite soup topping.

Serves 8 to 10.

-- Dan McKay, adapted from food52.com

(Reach Gretchen McKay at gmckay@post-gazette.com. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, shns.com.)

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