Chunky Italian Soup by Kathi Johnson

As the busy mom of three energetic girls under the age of 5, Kathi Johnson of Kiron, Iowa, savors hearty meals that can be made in minutes.  Chunky Italian Soup is one of her go-to recipes during the winter months because it makes good use of their home-grown beef and incorporates a kids’ favorite, Rotini.  Plus, it “disguises” lots of vegetables.

“I do my best to make nutritious meals, so hopefully my kids won’t grow up to be junk food junkies,” says Kathi.  “Anything I can do to help them take part in making the meal helps increase the likelihood they’ll eat it.

Grating carrots and pouring cans of vegetables into a pot are just a few ways kids can lend a helping hand in the kitchen this time of year.  In the summer time, they can help raise fruits and vegetables.

Gardening is a highlight for the Johnson family.  “Our girls love picking raspberries.  They’ll fill each of their fingers with berries,” says Kathi.  “It’s fun to see them excited about how things grow, and I’m glad they enjoy something that’s so good for them.”

Nurturing crops and raising food is a Johnson family tradition.  Kathi’s husband, Troy, was raised on a family farm and has farmed on his own for the past 20 years.  In addition to row crops, he raises feeder cattle and sells seed.

With spring planting still a few months away, the Johnson family values family time inside.  Their girls enjoy building with the Tinker Toys they got for Christmas.  They also enjoy play dough.

How does your family fight cabin fever?

Chunky Italian Soup



  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cans chunky tomatoes with garlic, basil & oregano
  • 1 can Progresso tomato soup with basil
  • 4 c. water
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • 1 T. chili powder (optional)
  • 1 can green beans
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 can red beans
  • 8 oz. rotini noodles
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded



  1. Cook beef and onion in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, soup, water, salt, pepper.  Bring to boil.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  4. Then add green beans, carrot and red beans.  Simmer for another 15 minutes.
  5. Cook rotini just before serving.
  6. Place cooked pasta in the bottom of each bowl.
  7. Pour soup over pasta and top with parmesan cheese.  (TIP:  Do not mix leftover soup and pasta together.)


by Kathi Johnson
Photo from Peace, Love & French Fries