Sometimes you just want to sit cross-legged on the couch and eat a big bowl of soup. Something simple and comforting. Something good. You need a homemade bowl of soup and you don’t want to go to much fuss to get it. Well, here's an easy minestrone that can be made almost any time of year as long as you have some vegetables in the fridge and some broth to make it.
Whatever the season, I like this soup with potatoes and one or two green vegetables. In late summer and fall, it might be swiss chard and green beans. In the winter, I'd sub in some hearty spinach and broccoli — and if you froze or canned any vegetables over the summer (peas! zucchini!), this would be the time to use them.
Whatever I have in the bowl, I love topping it with a fluffy snowfall of Parmesan cheese. A drizzle of pesto or infused olive oil would also turn this soup into something extraordinary.
A soup that knows no season! Our summer suddenly turned wet and chilly here in the San Francisco area, so this soup seemed like the perfect solution — something warm and comforting, but still filled with produce from the farmers market. I took Vanessa's suggestion of green beans and added some rainbow chard (which you can thank for the slightly rosy color of my broth!). You could just as easily add diced zucchini, fresh fava beans, or anything else in season — just be sure to adjust the cooking times to match the vegetables you use.
This makes a light, but very filling, vegetarian dinner that's perfect for a summer evening. Once we head into winter, I'm thinking that I might add some crumbled sausage or bacon to make it a bit heartier. I also added a parmesan rind to the broth as it simmered for an extra boost of savory flavor. All this said, I'm hanging on to this recipe for the next time I have vegan friends to dinner — it's flavorful enough on its own without needing to add any cheese. - Emma
Easy Green Minestrone
Serves 4 to 6 (Makes about 8 cups)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (1/2 teaspoon dry)
1 bay leaf
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 pound waxy red potatoes (4-5 small potatoes), cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound small-shaped pasta, like shells or elbow macaroni
6 ounces greens, like spinach, kale, or chard, cut into ribbons
1 (15-ounce) can white beans, like Great Northern or canneloni, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese, optional, to serve
In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and cook until the onion and celery are soft and translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme, and bay leaf, and cook until the garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the chicken broth, the potatoes, and 1 teaspoon of salt to the pan. Increase the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer the soup for 5 minutes. Add the green beans and simmer for another 5 to 10 minuets, until both the potatoes and the green beans are tender.
While the soup is simmering, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside.
When the vegetables are tender, stir the greens and the white beans into the soup. Simmer until the greens are wilted and tender, 1 to 3 minutes. Taste and add additional salt and pepper if needed.
To serve, add a scoop of pasta to each bowl and ladle the soup over top. Sprinkle some parmesan cheese and pesto over top, if using. Store pasta and soup leftovers separately; they will keep refrigerated for 1 week.
• Parmesan Broth: If you're in the habit of freezing parmesan cheese rinds, add one to this soup as it simmers for extra flavor.
• Drizzle of Pesto: In the summer, a drizzle of pesto over the top of this soup is a beautiful thing. If you have some in your fridge, I recommend it!
This post and recipe have been updated. Originally published 12/01/06.
(Images: Emma Christensen)