soup fillers - soup with pasta and beans

One of the many things to love about soup is that it’s a great way to make something from nothing. Bits and pieces from your fridge that might otherwise have gone to waste can easily become a delicious, nourishing meal. In fact, most of my favourite soups started with a mournful gaze into a pitifully stocked fridge.

Another wonderful thing about soup is that, when filled out with inexpensive pantry staples, it can be a fantastic way to make your money go further. This can free you up to spend a bit more on things like higher-welfare meat, where a small amount will go a long way. By using things like pasta, beans or grains, you can turn a simple soup a substantial meal that can last for several days – all without breaking the bank.

The best soup-fillers are hearty and healthful – like the whole-wheat macaroni I’ve used in the recipe at the bottom of this article. Brown rice, quinoa, millet, barley, and wheat berries are other whole-grain staples in my pantry that boost the satiating power of a brothy meal.

Throw in some legumes, and you’ll be bulking up the protein as well. Dried lentils are great because they cook quickly. Other options, such as chickpeas, navy beans, kidney beans, etc., require a pre-soak and a more lengthy cooking time – you can either reach for a can-opener, or cook big batches in advance to portion in zipper bags for the freezer. Looking for a legume-rich vegetarian option? Try this Rustic vegetable chickpea soup or lemony Spring lentil soup.

Fillers are far from just practical, however; the nutty flavour and chewy texture that good one can bring to a pot of soup are a true joy.

My comforting, homey recipe for Tomato, beef & macaroni soup warms the belly with a rich broth filled with hearty beef, tender vegetables and nostalgic elbow noodles. Feel free to substitute any other small pasta or grain for the macaroni, extending the cooking time as needed, or according to packet instructions. Some kidney beans would be a wonderful addition, taking it in the direction of Italian minestrone. And of course, you can always freestyle by tossing in vegetable odds and ends you have hanging around your refrigerator – green beans or zucchini would be perfect.

Tomato, beef & macaroni soup recipe

soup fillers


  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 medium stalks celery, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1½ lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 can (156 mL/5 1/2 oz or ⅔ cup) tomato paste
  • 1 can (796 mL/28 oz or 3 ⅓ cups) diced tomatoes
  • 1 litre/quart chicken or beef broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 ½ cups dried whole wheat macaroni
  • 1 cup firmly packed finely chopped kale or spinach
  • ¼ cup loosely packed minced parsley


Heat the oil in a large stockpot over a medium heat, then add your onion, celery and carrots; cook until vegetables have softened (about 10 minutes).

Add the ground beef, breaking up with spoon, until cooked through.

Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it turns a couple of shades darker, which should at least two minutes. This is an important flavour-building step because it caramelises the sugars and cooks out the raw tomato flavour.

Stir in the diced tomatoes, broth, water and oregano. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30-60 minutes. A long simmer yields a deeply flavourful broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fifteen minutes before serving, add the macaroni, and simmer until al dente. Stir in the chopped kale and parsley a minute before serving. The macaroni will continue to absorb liquid as the soup rests, but resist the urge to add more water or broth – it’ll just dilute the deliciousness.

About the author

Jennifer Pallian

Jennifer Pallian is a Vancouver-based food writer and photographer with a background in nutrition. On her blog, Foodess, she shares vibrant, globally-inspired seasonal recipes, luscious photography, funny stories about life as a mama, and an abundance of cooking and ingredient tips. Jennifer was named one of the Huffington Post’s “Top Ten Food Bloggers” and was a finalist in Saveur Magazine’s Best Food Blog Awards. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for delicious recipes and scrumptious photos.

Jennifer Pallian


Pasta, Rice, Soup