Lessons from the Parish Soup Supper

“Something is wrong when the best possible compliment you can give a fish dish is that it doesn’t taste fishy,” or so said Jim Gaffigan during a recent concert he gave here in Des Moines. The “anti-fishers” in the crowd had a good roar over that line, myself included. Given I’m not a seafood fan, when today’s Soup & Stories guest post hit my in-box a few weeks ago, I became excited. Could it be that our guest contributor has a plausible alternative to the Lenten parish fish fry? Please?! :)

What Lenten traditions does your parish share? I would very much enjoy reading about them.

Before we get to that, however, let’s give our guest a proper introduction. Today’s post comes from Shelly Kelly who blogs with her sister, Lisa Jones, at Of Sound Mind and Spirit. There Shelly writes about the Catholic faith, family life, politics, pro-life issues, and good books. Thanks to Shelly for sharing her spiritual insights and passing along a great idea with a delicious soup recipe to boot. I’m really {really} intrigued by how her parish is fostering fellowship and service during Lent. Read on!   

Parish-soup-supperThe soups in my recipe box aren’t common meals in our home, because the recipes take time and with our busy schedules, dinner is all about doing things quickly. Soup needs loving preparation, from selecting fresh ingredients, chopping, mincing, dicing for the pot, and patient simmering with occasional stirring to transform the ingredients into a delicious, sustainable meal.

Not unlike living a faithful life.

Just as we spend time preparing a soup, we must spend time on our path to holiness. That path requires selecting how we act towards others, preparing our hearts through prayer or readings, attending Mass where we patiently simmer, opening our hearts to allow the Lord to transform us.

Lent is a perfect time for soup recipes, not because of the weather outside, but because these recipes require your time, hard work, and thoughtful preparation. Lent is the time when we are called to listen to God, to choose Him over doing things quickly.

Every Monday evening during Lent, my parish holds “Soup Night” where each ministry takes turns preparing and serving the meal for two or three hundred guests. The following recipe is the soup prepared annually by our Pastoral Council and holds fond memories for me of Sunday afternoons spent in fellowship, working in stations of chopping, browning, sautéing, boiling, measuring, and opening many cans by hand. (For some reason, we never remembered to bring an electric can opener.) Teams of two would carefully move our huge soup pots into our walk-in refrigerator, only to move them out Monday afternoon to warm on the stove. The one bit of advice passed down each year from PC veterans was “don’t add the pasta until just before you serve or it will be soggy.”

Olive Garden Pasta Fagioli (Download PDF copy here)

Yield: 8 Servings


1 pound ground beef
1 small onion diced 1 cup
1 large carrot julienned 1 cup
3 stalks celery chopped 1 cup
2 cloves garlic minced
2 cans diced tomatoes – 14 1/2 oz ea
1 can red kidney beans – 15 oz with liquid
1 can great northern beans – 15 oz with liquid
1 can tomato sauce 15 oz
1 can V-8 juice – 12 oz
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 pound ditalini pasta – 1/2 pkg


Brown the ground beef in a large saucepan or pot over medium heat. Drain off most of the fat. Add onion, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, except pasta, and simmer for 1 hour.
About 50 minutes into simmer time, cook the pasta in 1 1/2 to 2 quarts of boiling water over high heat. Cook for 10 minutes or just until pasta is al dente, or slightly tough. Drain.
Add the pasta to the large pot of soup. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes and serve.

Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 199 Calories; 15g Fat (68.4% calories from fat); 10g Protein; 5g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 48mg Cholesterol; 640mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain (Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 1 Vegetable; 2 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates

Get Updates

Get the latest posts from The Practicing Catholic, delivered straight to your inbox!


  1. says

    We sure get held up by *meaty* issues during lent — I love this idea of a hearty soup, on a Monday, at a parish – made by many loving/giving hands. And possibly one most people will never get to enjoy at the real Olive Garden.


Join the conversation!