So amongst the few people I've told about this insane endeavor, the second most common reaction (after "Every day for a year? Are you crazy?") is: "Awww, soup! I love soup!"
This is a soup that captures those warm fuzzy feelings pretty well and transmogrifies them into bowl-friendly edible form. It's not fancy, it's not complex and it doesn't even simmer all day. Still: worthwhile.
The one technique that really sets this soup apart is the browning of the tomato paste after the other aromatics are sauteed. This is a pretty common classical French technique (as in sauce espagnole) and creates an absolutely divine smell while cooking. The paste also thickens the soup up to more of a stew-like consistency–this is not at all a brothy soup.
Tomato, Beef & Pasta Soup
1/2 pound ground round or ground beef
1 smallish white onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded, ribbed (or de-ribbed?) and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 ounces (half a small can–or go ahead and use more, if you're just going to throw away the excess) tomato paste
1 Tbsp mixed dried herbs: oregano, basil and sage, in any proportion
Salt and pepper to taste (start with about 1/2 tsp salt)
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
4 cups beef broth or water
1 cup dried pasta, in the small shape of your choice–I used fusilli
Ricotta cheese, preferably whole-milk, for serving; mix it with a bit of chopped flat-leaf parsley if you like
In a soup pot, combine the ground round, onion and pepper. Cook over medium heat, breaking beef up with a spoon, until beef is well browned. Add garlic; cook one minute more. Drain thoroughly.
Add tomato paste, mixed herbs, salt and pepper and return to heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until tomato paste turns a rusty color and smells delicious. This should take no more than two or three minutes.
Add tomatoes and broth or water. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Immediately stir in pasta, reduce heat slightly and simmer, covered, until pasta is al dente–this should take about 15 minutes, depending on the pasta. Taste and correct seasoning if needed.
Ladle into bowls and plop a generous scoop of ricotta on top of each. Snuggle down and prepare to fend off a cold winter's night.