When it's time to clean out the fridge, it's minestrone day. Minestrone is a soup of scraps, and because the recipe is infinitely changeable depending on what you have, it's also a soup of the moment.
This recipe is a lot like one of those choose-your-own-adventure books. Choose chicken stock for your liquid and the soup will have a rich, deep taste. Use vegetable stock or even water, and the soup will become light and scented with the herbs you choose to add. Throw in a handful of zucchini and a quart of green beans and you've made a late-summer bowl, ideal for the chill that comes in at the end of August. Or go for cubed butternut squash and kale and the soup becomes a steaming winter stew.
However you make it, minestrone is hearty enough to be a meal in itself. All it needs is some good bread for dipping.
There's no way you can really mess up this soup; there are so many variations and options to choose from! I used fall and winter produce and it all came together beautifully into a comforting but light soup.
I followed Alana's instructions and chose not to put pasta into my soup since I planned to freeze some of it, and the soup both froze and defrosted beautifully.
- Christine, November 2015
Makes about 2 1/2 quarts; serves 4 to 6
- For the soup base:
celery stalks (optional)
Olive oil and/or butter
dried or small handful chopped fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, sage, or marjoram
water, chicken or vegetable stock, or whey
Parmesan rind or prosciutto end (optional)
Any combination of vegetables, like diced leek (1 large); hearty greens or cabbage, sliced into ribbons; peeled and cubed winter squash (about 1/2 small butternut); diced zucchini; and green or yellow beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
roasted tomatoes, 2 cups chopped canned tomatoes, or 2 medium fresh tomatoes, cored and diced
- Extras and finishing:
Cooked beans, pasta, or grains
Olive oil, grated Parmesan cheese, pesto, or fresh chopped basil leaves
Start with the aromatics. Dice the onion and, if you have them, the carrots and celery. Coarsely chop the garlic. Cook in a large pot over medium heat in a mix of butter and olive oil (enough to have a thin film cover the bottom of the pan, use only olive oil if making the soup vegan), stirring often, for 15 minutes. Add the garlic and herbs. Throw in the bay leaf and salt and continue to cook for a few minutes.
Now add the liquid — the water, stock, or whey. Bring it to a low boil, then reduce to a simmer. If you have a Parmesan rind or prosciutto end, add it now.
From here, you have a great base. Add the remaining vegetables except the tomatoes. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.
Add the tomatoes, including any liquid from the can, jar, or bag. Simmer until the tomatoes soften, about 5 minutes.
Finally, add the extras. Add any or some combination of cooked beans (cannellini and chickpeas are my favorites here), cooked pasta, or cooked grain. Taste and season with salt as needed.
Scoop into big bowls and finish with your toppings. A drizzle of olive oil, grated Parmesan, pesto, or coarsely chopped basil are all wonderful here.
This freezes well, as long as it doesn't have pasta. Freeze in airtight containers for up to 6 months.
Reprinted with permission from The Homemade Kitchen: Recipes for Cooking with Pleasure by Alana Chernila, copyright (c) 2015. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.