Being able to make foods in batches can be a clutch, time-saving mealtime hack. But by the time day three or four hits, chances are high that you aren’t looking forward to eating (again) what you prepped in advance. Meal fatigue is real, my friends. That’s when it’s time to get a little creative with your leftovers.
It’s a cooking fact that some leftovers are easier to transform than others. Leftover pizza, for example, is still going to be leftover pizza, no matter how you try to rework those slices. Soup, on the other hand, is a chameleon. It’s one reason why healthy food blogger, Liz Moody, recommends making some at the beginning of the week as part of this upcoming week’s ReNew Year plan.
Not convinced soup can be the multitasking ingredient you want it to be? Rounded up here are five handy leftover soup ideas to keep in your metaphorical apron pocket for when you need them. Not only will they keep your meals interesting, but they help reduce food waste, too.
5 leftover soup ideas to beat mealtime fatigue
1. Use it as cooking liquid for rice or quinoa
Sweet Peas & Saffron food blogger Denise Bustard likes to use leftover soup to give neutral-tasting grains, like rice and quinoa, more flavor. “Using leftover soup not only infuses the rice or quinoa with added flavor, but also bulks it up with vegetables and protein—assuming the soup includes these items—making it a complete meal,” she says. Even though it only takes about five minutes to combine the grains and soup, it instantly makes it a lot more interesting than having either one separately.
2. Use it to make pasta sauce
Michele Di Pietro is so passionate about soup that she wrote a whole book about it, SOUPified: Soups Inspired by Your Favorite Dishes ($25). As you can imagine, leftover soup is something she encounters on a regular basis. One way she says she likes to reuse her soup is to make pasta sauce. “Simmer three to four cups of the leftover soup in a skillet until the liquid has been reduced by about 25 percent. While the leftover soup is simmering, [separately] cook your favorite long pasta, ideally a thicker cut such as tagliatelle, fettuccine, pappardelle, or bucatini,” she instructs. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it, then add it to the reduced soup mixture and let simmer together briefly before adding olive oil and a sprinkle of cheese for a finishing touch. The end result is a pasta dinner with a sauce that’s much more interesting than just jarred tomato sauce.
3. Use it to make one-pot pasta
Similarly to Di Pietro, Bustard likes combining leftover soup with pasta for a quick and easy dinner. “In most cases, pasta cooks in stock with seasonings, vegetables, proteins, and other ingredients, absorbing so much flavor as it cooks. Swapping out stock for leftover soup could accomplish the same, adding new vegetables, proteins, and flavors to your one-pot pasta recipe,” she says.
4. Add it to make a casserole creamier or thicker
“An idea to use up creamy or thicker soups could be to play around with turning them into a casserole. Whenever a casserole calls for liquid, consider using the soup,” Bustard says. For example, she says that sometimes she’ll swap out the enchilada sauce in this Mexican spaghetti squash casserole recipe with a creamy soup. “Just be careful if any casseroles specifically require thin liquid, as swapping for thick, creamy soup may not work in those cases,” she adds, as one caveat.
5. Turn creamy soup leftovers into a dipping sauce
When Di Pietro has a hearty, creamy leftover soup she wants to reuse in a new way, she says sometimes she’ll turn it into a dip. To do this, she says to simmer your leftover soup on the skillet and then add in cheese to thicken the texture. Then, she’ll bake it in the oven at 400°F until it’s bubbly and golden. “Serve it with baguette slices, crackers, or tortilla chips,” she says. Not a cheese lover? You can also thicken your soup by throwing it in the blender with a handful of cauliflower. Since cauliflower has a neutral taste, it will add bulk without changing the flavor.
Since soups are typically made with both protein and veggies, it’s bound to help you cover your nutrient bases in a way that’s quicker than cooking your protein, vegetables, and other components of your meal separately. Soup can definitely be as interesting on day four as it was on day one—all it takes is a little creativity.
On the hunt for a good soup recipe? See how to make vegan Italian meatball soup in the video below:
Get more healthy cooking ideas in Well+Good’s Cook With Us group.
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