This delicious soup makes a great food gift!

The idea was given to me years ago by Jamie Hilbig of the Heritage Herb Club of Plano. The dry ingredients are layered in a glass jar along with a bouquet garni, and accompanied by the recipe. All that’s needed to complete the soup is stock, wine, tomatoes, beans, and herbs. Think about it: The recipient comes home from a hectic day at work or holiday shopping, and in an hour can erase the day’s stress by consuming a hearty, comforting bowl of piping hot soup.

Particularly comforting after a day of hectic holiday shopping!


  • 1½ cups organic penne pasta
  • 1 cup chopped sulfite-free sun-dried tomatoes, not reconstituted
  • ½ cup dehydrated sweet bell peppers (available online)
  • ¼ cup onion flake
  • ¼ cup dried shallots
  • 1 cup dried gourmet mushrooms


  • 1 tbsp. crisp garlic flakes
  • 1½ tsp. dried thyme
  • 2 tsp. dried minced basil
  • ¾ tsp. crushed red pepper


  • 10 cups vegetable or chicken stock or broth
  • 1½ cups white wine
  • 1 (14-oz.) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14-oz.) can cannellini or other white beans, drained, rinsed
  • salt, freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • chopped fresh parsley


  1. In a clean jar with a lid, layer the dry ingredients in the order given. Mix together the bouquet garni ingredients and secure in cheesecloth, a bouquet garni bag, or small sealable plastic bag. Decorate the jar as desired for gift giving; add the bouquet garni either in the jar or tied to the outside. Give the jar as a gift including a recipe card with instructions for final preparation.
  2. To prepare the soup, remove the mushrooms from the jar and cover with 1 cup hot water. Let stand 30 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.
  3. In an 8-quart pot, combine the mushrooms, the remaining mixture in the jar, the bouquet garni, and stock or broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until pasta is almost tender, about 10 minutes. Add the wine and tomatoes, simmer another 15–20 minutes covered. Add the beans, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs. Mix and cook a few more minutes until the beans are just heated through. Remove the bouquet garni and discard. Garnish each serving, if desired, with more fresh thyme and parsley. Makes 8 servings.

Barbara Walch

Barbara Walch joined the staff of Plano Profile in August 1986 and currently serves as Food Editor and Associate Publisher, Community Relations. In addition to writing Dining In, a monthly food feature,...