How to Bulk Up a Pathetic, Watery Soup
Soup can be a meal, provided it has enough stuff in it, but sometimes the reality inside the can does not match what’s advertised on the outside. This is more easily prevented with homemade soups, but sometimes you don’t...
Photo: Ezume Images (Shutterstock)
Soup can be a meal, provided it has enough stuff in it, but sometimes the reality inside the can does not match what’s advertised on the outside. This is more easily prevented with homemade soups, but sometimes you don’t add enough stuff initially, or someone eats all the good stuff, leaving you with mostly broth. But neither of those situations are cause for panic—there are many things you can add to bulk up your soup after the fact, none of which are noodles or rice. (Noodles and rice are always acceptable, but they’re quite obvious, I think.)
Tortellini are like noodles, but even better, because they come stuffed with more stuff, and adding bulk is our goal here. You can buy them frozen or refrigerated—either way, all you have to do is toss the prepared pasta into simmering soup and cook until tender, which usually takes 2-5 minutes, depending on the starting temperature of your tortellini.
Shelf-stable or refrigerated gnocchi requires a similar amount of effort. Add it to a simmering soup and cook until the little potato dumplings float to the top. Garnish with some sort of thickened or cultured dairy and scallions to accentuate the potato vibe.
Speaking of potato vibes, you can use leftover mashed potatoes to make gnocchi-like dumplings—all you need is one egg and one cup of all-purpose flour for every two cups of cold mashed potatoes. Mix gently, then roll the potato dough into a potato snake and snip into bite-sized pieces. Cook just like you would already-prepared gnocchi (in simmering water until they float).
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If you don’t feel like mixing, rolling, or snipping, you can purée mashed potatoes into a watery soup to give it body. Use about a cup of cold mashers for every cup of broth, and puree it into the broth with an immersion blender before bringing it to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, add cheese if you like, and cook until your soup is velvety and smooth.
These aren’t technically noodles, but they are noodle adjacent, and they cook much faster than most noodles, thanks to their thin, handkerchief-like quality. Drop them in boiling soup for a minute or so, until they feel pleasingly bouncy in between your teeth (give one a taste test after 60 seconds).
I am fairly obsessed with the Trader Joe’s steamed lentils. While I understand that cooking lentils is not a challenging culinary activity, it is a boring one, and these pre-cooked lentils are fast, filling, and very versatile. I mostly add them to salads, but they bulk a soup almost instantly, which is very welcome during the cold winter months. They’re already cooked, so they only need to be simmered until warm, which takes about a minute.
If all you have is two cans of puny, unsubstantial soup, you can do what our deputy editor Jordan Calhoun, does, and simply strain the solids out of the one of the cans, to create on super soup with double the stuff. “I just open one can and pour it into the pot; but then, on the second can, strain out the broth (by just holding the lid in place and turning the can upside down) and keeping what’s left,” he explained to me over Slack.
If you don’t want to waste the excess broth, save it and add it to your next batch of rice, or beans, or—I dunno—soup. It’s just soup all the way down.