A basement renovation had been something we talked about almost every day for the last 2 years - "Oh, we can do this, and put up a wall there, and make sure that we never see a spider again". Over the years our basement has accumulated a pile of junk - boxes, tubs, wood, etc. It was basically a death trap for a toddler. It was leaky and cold and housed a million spiders. Brent is deathly afraid of spiders, so it was either spider-proof the basement, move, or watch him eventually burn down the house in a fit of panic. We sealed up all the leaky walls. We sprayed an expanding foam in all of the cracks. We put up a wall separating his tools, so he now has a cute little workshop. We tore out the old carpet, put down tiles in the shop and this super comfy new carpet in the rest of the area. We painted one wall with chalkboard paint and inserted a piece of metal into another for a magnetic chalkboard. We painted the ceiling and walls in a bright white paint, and we bought new pot lights to cover up any holes into the ceiling where spiders can come through. I kid you not, our basement was crawling with giant house spiders. It was actually terrifying. We still have a few things we want to do - installing a fireplace, purchasing a sleeper sofa, but for the most part, the basement is finished and is now my favorite room in the house.
Aside from working on the basement, we took a mini vacation to Bend Oregon. We rented a super cute little cabin - it was actually more of a modern, extremely accessible, take on your traditional rural cabin. We went skiing at Mt Bachelor, did some browsing and shopping, and hit up a few breweries in town. Brent had gone on a ski trip to Bend the year prior and said that the weather was mild and that it only snowed in the mountains, so we packed light and were excited to spend time outside. But..... unfortunately, we started and finished our trip in one of the worst snow storms I have ever witnessed. So, we spent a lot of time in the cabin and then in the car, which would have been absolutely horrible with a toddler, but we purchased and Amazon Fire Tablet before our trip and it completely saved us. Sooooo... I'm now completely sick of winter and snow and if you need me I'll be in the basement hibernating.
Are you guys familiar with Marcella Hazan's famous butter and onion tomato sauce from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking? It is my absolute favorite pasta sauce. I make it often, and always when we have visitors. What makes this sauce so delicious is that you simmer canned tomatoes with a whole onion until the onion loses all of its flavors and then you discard it. Oh, and the butter. That also makes it extremely delicious. Whenever I make this pasta, I always find myself slurping the leftover sauce off my plate. This gave me the idea to try and use the same principals for this sauce but turn it into a soup. I added a ton of vegetables and some pasta and then finished it with some Parmesan cheese. The broth is so rich and flavorful, similar to the pasta sauce.
BUTTER ONION TOMATO SOUP WITH PASTA AND PARMESAN
prep time: 20 minutes
cooking time: 90 minutes
28 oz tin diced tomatoes
10 cups vegetable broth
1 yellow onion, skin removed and halved
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
1 cup chopped squash (hubbard, acorn, butternut etc.)
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cups (1/2 small head) chopped cauliflower
1 cup dry Collezione pasta
2 cups chopped kale
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Place a large soup pot or dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, broth, onion, butter, salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Bring to a low boil. Cover and cook for 60 minutes, until the onion becomes very mushy and starts to fall apart. Then, with a slotted spoon and tongs, remove the onion from the soup and discard.
Add the carrots, squash, mushrooms, and cauliflower to the soup. Continue to cook until soft. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Then add the kale and cook until soft. At this point, all of the veggies and pasta should be soft.
Season with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
If you are planning to make the soup with enough for leftovers, you may want to cook the pasta separately, and then add right before serving. The pasta will swell and absorb a lot of the broth. If you cook the pasta in the soup, you will have to add more broth if you are reheating the next day.