June 14, 2024


Simply The Best Food

Soup’s on | Area cooks offer their recipes to chase away winter’s chill | Features

9 min read

Nothing beats a hot bowl of soup on a cold day.

Whether it’s a tried-and-true favorite, a new recipe or a new invention, area residents are making soups that are enjoyed by family, friends and neighbors.

For Mary Beth Deitke, of Bon Air, soup has been a staple in her home since she was young.

“Every Saturday from fall to spring, there was soup in our house,” she said.

“And growing up, it was chicken, beef, venison and pheasant.

“When I was in high school coming home from Saturday afternoon football games, my mom had a big pot of soup cooking and you could smell it as you were walking up the sidewalk.

“Christmas parades used to be Saturday mornings and it was bitter cold and she always had a pot of soup ready.”

Deitke said she has continued the tradition with her 89-year-old father, making soup weekly.

“We enjoy doing it to together,” she said. “Now we’re making more of the specialty soups, some recipes I have and some I find online.”

Deitke said she uses her grandmother’s stockpot to make most of her soups.

“We get everything together on Friday night and then my dad will start around 9 a.m. Saturday and it cooks all day,” she said. “He’ll have soup for lunch during the week and my niece comes to get soup and I’ll take some to neighbors and friends.”

One of her favorite soups is Chicken Tortellini.

“I kind of borrowed from one recipe and stole from another,” Deitke said.

“We use cream of chicken soup as the base and there’s spinach and tortellini and it’s in a Crock-Pot and it cooks all day.”

She also likes to make cabbage harvest soup.

“It sounds different and it looks a little different, but it’s out of this world,” Deitke said.

“It has savory cabbage, kielbasa and vegetables and it’s a cream soup.”

She said when trying a new recipe, she’ll stick closely to it, but then she’ll tweak it to make it to her liking.

“I have a calendar and rotate the soups and I know what we’re going to have, but sometimes, I’ll decide that we need something different and I’ll look for a new recipe,” Deitke said.

Most of the time the soup is the main meal, but she said they’ll sometimes have a sandwich with it or bread or rolls.

“There’s a lot of filling in the soup and you really don’t need anything to go with it,” Deitke said.

She said soup is a great comfort food and makes you feel good.

“If you have nice cup of hot soup on a cold day, you’re guaranteed to be nice and warm,” Deitke said. 

“And there’s nothing like walking in the door and smelling soup cooking.

“It’s fantastic.”

Nancy Gilbert, of Upper Yoder Township, said she got her love of soup from her grandmothers and mother.

“Every Sunday, my maternal grandmother would cook a ton of stuff, and without fail, she would have a pot of soup with homemade noodles,” she said.

“Now, I enjoy making soup and sharing it with friends and neighbors.

“There’s so many different soups you can make and it’s easy and it feeds a crowd.”

Gilbert said she makes soup about twice a month.

“I like to make Italian wedding soup, a sausage minestrone soup, a beef rice soup, tortellini soup, ham pot pie and chili,” she said.

“I haven’t made any soups that my family doesn’t particularly like.”

Gilbert uses her mother’s stockpot and it’s her favorite when she’s making large amounts of soup.

“I’ll do the stock in there and then I’ll have another large pot when I do pasta, whether it’s homemade noodles or store-bought,” she said.

“I’ve done some soups in a Crock-Pot, but it’s not the same as simmering on the stove all day.”

Gilbert said she likes to experiment with soups and alter recipes.

“I’ll get a recipe that sounds interesting and I’ll put my own bent on it,” she said.

“We like things with a little bit of heat, so I’ll put an eighth to a quarter of a teaspoon of red pepper flakes or cayenne to give it a bit of an extra kick.”

Gilbert said if she has extra time, she’ll make homemade bread to go with the soup.

“Some of the soups are hearty enough to stand alone, like the minestrone and chili, but other times, I’ll do a hot ham and swiss sandwich or pick up a sub,” she said.

Gilbert said nothing beats the smell of soup cooking.

“It says home and it’s heartwarming,” she said.

“It’s something that everybody loves since childhood.”

Johnstown resident Colleen Kurtz has been making soup for as long as she can remember.

“My mom always made it and I like it in the winter,” she said. “I make enough to freeze in little containers and that’s my lunch every day for work. I don’t have to worry about what I’m taking, I just grab one out of the freezer and away I go.”

Kurtz said she makes soup once every couple of months.

“I made a whole bunch before Christmas of beef and chicken, that’s the base I make most of my soup from,” she said. “When it starts to get low, I’ll make a couple big batches and take two days and make two big pots of chicken and two big pots of beef.”

Family favorites include chicken pastina, vegetable and Italian wedding soup.

“I pretty much stay with the same soups and I go with what they like,” Kurtz said. “I’m one of those old cooks and just kind of throw everything together. I don’t have any recipes.”

She uses two stockpots that make large quantities of soup.

“I boil my water and as it’s boiling, I clean the chicken or beef and then throw it in and then I add the vegetables, the bouillon and whatever else I can find to throw in there,” Kurtz said.

She said soup-making is a morning- to-night process from cooking, straining, putting it into containers, refrigerating, skimming fat and freezing.

“I have it down, but it takes two days to finish it off,” Kurtz said.

Sometimes she’ll serve chicken with the soup, and depending on the soup, maybe a vegetable or salad. 

“Most of the time everyone is just happy with the soup,” Kurtz said.

She said soup is a good food that brings comfort.

“When I come home from work and I’ve been freezing all day, I’ll say, ‘We’re having soup,’ ” Kurtz said.

“When it’s cold, it’s a good soup day.”

Melissa Gore said when she was young, her father would make soup on Saturdays.

“I would always want to pitch in and help him,” the Johnstown resident said. “He could whip up just about anything and it always was good.”

Gore said soup-making has stuck with her and she continues to make it regularly.

“I make all kinds of soups – Italian wedding, sausage tortellini, pasta cece (chickpea), stuffed pepper, split pea with ham, loaded baked potato, tomato basil and chicken gnocchi,” she said.

Gore said she typically hosts a winter soup day each year for her family.

“I invite the whole family on a Sunday afternoon and make at least three if not four pots of homemade soups,” she said. “Everyone really looks forward to it and we have a fun time getting together to do that.”

Gore said she makes soup every weekend, sometimes more often.

“Cold weather does it, it just makes you want to put a pot on to simmer and make something,” she said.

“There’s so many things you can do. I really like the Allrecipes app and look at that for a lot of ideas and then try to make them how I like it.”

Gore said she makes her soups in Instapots.

“You can sauté all of your stuff and then throw it in,” she said. “You can either let it simmer like you would do on top of the stove or you can lock the lid and pressure-cook it. Sometimes I have two of them going at one time.”

Gore said she likes to freeze soup and also gives some to family and friends.

“I like to give it away as much I like to cook it,” she said.

Gore said soups warm you from the inside out and that is why she makes it.

“I really enjoy sitting down and eating a bowl of hot soup,” she said.

Salix resident Michael Zimmerman Sr. started making his own chicken noodle soup a few years ago.

“I just got hungry for it and decided to try and make it,” he said. “It was trial and error and I’ve been tweaking it ever since.”

Zimmerman said he makes the soup about twice a year, usually in winter months.

“It’s an all-day process and I’ll also throw in some carrots and celery,” he said.

“I’ll give some away and freeze it, but it’s me, my wife and three kids and it’s amazing how quickly it goes.”

Zimmerman said he makes his own noodles to go along with the soup.

“It’s pot pie dough,” he said. “It has to be the homemade noodles because that’s the only way I’ll make it,” he said. 

Zimmerman said soup is a great food in cold months and warms you up.

“I really enjoy making it and I think it’s about time to make a pot,” he said.

Sausage Tortellini Soup

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage

1/2 pound hot Italian sausage

1 onion, diced

3 carrots, sliced

1 sweet pepper, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning or more

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cans chicken broth

2 cans beef broth

1 can diced tomatoes

1/2 bag frozen cheese tortellini

1/2 bag frozen beef tortellini

2-3 cups chopped spinach or kale

Parmesan cheese

In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, add olive oil, brown and crumble both sausages, add onion, carrots, sweet pepper and garlic until meat is no longer pink. Sprinkle herbs over top and pour in broths and tomatoes.

Cover pot, reduce heat and allow to simmer for 45 minutes.

Remove lid, salt and pepper to taste, add tortellini and spinach, continue to simmer until pasta is cooked.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese to serve.

– Melissa Gore

Pasta Cece Soup (chickpea)

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 pound ground beef or sausage

3 carrots, sliced

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon thyme

4 cups vegetable broth

1 cup diced tomatoes

1 cup ditalini pasta

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese

In a heavy pot, heat oil and butter, add meat, carrots, onion and garlic. Sauté, breaking up meat until no longer pink. Stir in tomato paste and seasonings. Add broth and tomatoes, bring to a boil, add pasta, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until pasta tender.

Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

– Melissa Gore

Italian Wedding Soup


1 pound ground beef and pork (also called “meatloaf mix”)

1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

1 egg

Salt and pepper

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil


1 cup carrots, diced 1/4 inch

1 cup diced onion

1/2 cup finely diced celery

11/2 tablespoons minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

5 cans chicken broth

1 can chicken stock

1 cup water

1 tablespoon chicken bouillon powder

6 ounces fresh spinach, chopped

1 pound acini di pepe pasta (small dots) or orzo pasta

In large bowl, mix beef and pork, bread crumbs, oregano, cheese, egg, salt and pepper. Form into 3/4-1 inch meatballs. Heat olive oil, in a skillet and brown half of the meatballs for around 4 minutes (just to brown on all sides). Transfer meatballs to a plate lined with a paper towel. Repeat, with remaining meatballs.

Place soup ingredients (except for pasta) into a large stockpot. Bring to a boil, then add meatballs. After 5 minutes, turn to simmer, and let meatballs finish cooking (around 25 minutes total). Turn soup to low. In another pot, cook acini di pepe, until al dente (follow directions on box). When done, drain pasta. Scoop generous amount of pasta into soup bowls. Ladle broth/meatball/vegetable over pasta and mix.

Top with Parmesan cheese.

– Nancy Gilbert

Cabbage Harvest Soup

2 cups sliced and quarter sausage

½ cup grated onion

1 cup diced celery

½ cup flour

4 ounces butter

2 pounds savory cabbage (sliced and chopped)

8 cups chicken broth

1 bag frozen mixed vegetables

8 ounces heavy cream or half and half

Sauté onion and celery in butter, add chopped cabbage and stir. Cook cabbage until tender.

Add flour, stir well until coated. Slowly add cream, stirring to avoid lumps.

Add diced sausage, pour in chicken broth and mixed vegetables. Let cook about 20 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper. 

– Mary Beth Deitke

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