I’m a sucker for Facebook recaps of the year. No matter what mood I’m in–whether I’m feeling overwhelmed or mad or unloved or lonely–I instantly perk up when the magic algorithm chooses photos that bring back vivid memories of what went right through the year.

This year, a good number of those memories include Soup Night. Thanks to one of my favorite people, Erin, I’ve spent one night each month in the company of genuinely good people for what is essentially a pot-luck dinner. One of the things I love so much is that the group is almost always different and while we almost always have a soup as a main dish, everything else ebbs and flows. There’s consistent laughter and usually tears, shared confidences and angel readings.

My kids, once skeptics that Soup Night would be fun, now perk up when I tell them when our monthly date is scheduled. Erin waits at the door to give hugs and both even willingly join the group for the traditional picture. That’s a testament to just how special these nights are.

One thing everyone is keenly aware of at Soup Night is food allergies/intolerance. A few of my favorite folks are gluten-free and I’ve recently had to make significant changes to eliminate corn and all corn derivatives from my diet. That can be tough and I won’t lie–there’s been a learning curve. But–and this is a big but–I’ve almost enjoyed revamping recipes and introducing new flavors to my diet.

I hesitate to share many recipes here. I’m not a food blogger. I didn’t take one photo as I cooked. But I also know that searching for corn-free anything is a chore; I also know that intolerance of/sensitivity to corn is on the rise. So if someone lands here and realizes they can still eat really great food, that would make me happy.

Also, I promised Greta a recipe and seriously slacked on sending said recipe. Mea culpa, friend.

Soup Night Corn-free, Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Soy-free, Potato-free Pasta Fagioli

Ingredients:

1 pound ground beef (If I’m out of beef that my dad gives me from his own cows, I use)

4 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped

1 large onion, chopped

4 carrots, peeled and diced

4 stalks celery, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and sliced

Fistful of dried basil*

Fistful of dried oregano*

1 cup (ish) fresh green beans, trimmed and halved

1 zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise and sliced

1 13 oz. can of beans (I like cannellini in this soup but also use garbanzo)

1 28 oz. can tomatoes (diced, crushed, fire roasted…whatever makes you happy)

2 32 oz. cartons vegetable broth (I like Trader Joe’s Hearty Vegetable Stock)

½ bag rice fusilli (I like Trader Joe’s Organic Rice Fusilli )

Directions:

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Cover the surface with a few turns of olive oil, then brown ground beef, stirring often enough to break into small pieces. Add garlic once browned and stir a few times, then add onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent.

Add fistful each of oregano and basil. *If guessing, I’d say this is 2-3 tbsps of each. Stir to distribute.

Add tomatoes. If using whole canned tomatoes, crush with your hands as you add them. Stir to distribute.

Add vegetable broth, then green beans, zucchini, and beans, if using. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Add salt, then rice pasta. Cook according to package directions, then drain and add to soup.

Notes:

I salt and pepper through each step—liberal “grabs” of sea salt and a few cracks of black pepper for the ground beef, then the mirepoix, then the whole pot. Taste as you go so you can adjust to your preference.

This is a forgiving recipe. Use the veggies you like, include or skip the beans, sub potatoes for the pasta if you can have them.

Because I now need to avoid corn and all of its insidious forms, I use sea salt instead of table salt and ingredients without things like citric acid, artificial coloring, etc.

Like many soups, this one tastes better on day 2, when the flavors have been able to hang out and get to know each other.

Soup Night December 2015

A few of my favorite people. (back row):Mona, Debi, Erin, me, Nicholas, Erin, Greta (front row): Debra, Trish, Katherine