Minestrone is simply an Italian vegetable soup which often includes pasta. My minestrone is never exactly the same each time; that’s a good thing. What I’ve posted below are guidelines, recommendations. Use seasonal ingredients and leftovers. Be creative and have fun.
When we camp in the desert, I make a version we call Playastrone, with canned veggies and beans instead of fresh veggies & pasta. When the smell wafts and unexpected guests drop by, I may ask if they have anything to contribute to the soup to stretch it. Canned corn, black beans...all gifts go in the pot. No one leaves hungry.
Both recipes serve 8 - 10 people.
- Greens: 1-2 bunches. I like kale and beet greens. Chard works, too. Spinach, meh – something about the metallic aftertaste I don’t care for in my soup.
- Mirepoix: about 1 1/2 c. chopped. equal amounts of red onion, carrots, celery. Red bell pepper too, if it’s available.
- Other veggies: roughly 4 cups chopped: wild or cremini mushrooms, green beans, a generous amount of fresh tomatoes (Roma or grape are my faves for this -- don't skip the tomatoes!), garlic, zucchini. If they're in season: fava beans, fresh garbanzo beans, green garlic, green tomatoes (they are mild and sweet, try it and see).
- Meat is optional, but we like it: leftover chicken or beef, or Italian sausage (precooked before adding to the pot)
- Fresh Italian herbs (or dried herbs if you don't have fresh): parsley, basil, rosemary, lemon thyme. about 1/4 - 1/3 chopped/fresh, about 2-3 T/dried. use alight hand and taste as the soup brews. you can add but you can't take away.
- A starch component: tortellini or beans (garbanzo, cannellini, kidney are good; lima beans or black-eyed peas are not). or leftover potatoes. or diced winter squash. or all of the above.
- Broth: 8 cups for a big stock pot of soup.
- My secret ingredient: lemon or orange zest. Don't get crazy with this. You only want to use enough to "freshen" the broth.
- Chop everything into bite-sized pieces. Lightly sauté the mirepoix in olive oil until they start to soften. Then add the garlic & tomatoes and stir a minute more. Burned garlic = bad.
- Now add the other raw veggies, herbs, meat, and broth. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Veggies should be cooked enough, not to death.
- Pile the leafy greens on top and simmer with the lid on the pot. Check periodically. Soup should be ready to serve in 5-10 more minutes.
- What you do next depends on your starch component.
- If I have tortellini on hand (I do today), I’ll cook the pasta separately. I hate over-cooked pasta and it tends to absorb the broth if you store leftovers in the fridge overnight. Just ladle the soup over your pasta before serving.
- If I don’t have or want pasta in the soup, I’ll add a can of beans to the pot. Or I’ll dice up a leftover baked potato or kabocha or butternut squash. Or all of the above. Just don’t use yams or sweet potatoes, please.
- 2-3 diced red onions
- 2 diced green peppers
- 4 diced carrots
- 4 diced celery sticks
- 6 c. broth
- 28 oz. can stewed or diced tomatoes
- 15 oz. can each kidney, garbanzos, green beans
- 2-3 cans chicken
- 2 T. dried parsley
- 2 t. Italian seasoning
- 1 t. lemon pepper
- 1 t. garlic powder
- Saute onion, peppers, carrots and celery over med-low heat until soft.
- Add broth, beans, chicken and seasoning. Simmer for 15 minutes.