Minestrone soup is considered one of the cornerstones of Italian cuisine. Historically, minestrone was a humble soup, made primarily from leftovers with the addition of whatever fresh vegetables were available, often with the addition of pasta. This soup was inexpensive, easy to make, filling, and could feed large groups. It was a soup intended for everyday and as a main course, not a starter. What I love about minestrone in particular is that there is no “set recipe” for this hearty classic. This is why you see so much variation. Made with or without meat, pasta, beans and with variation in broth, you have lots of room for interpretation.
Vegetarian Minestrone Soup
- 2 cups dried Great Northern beans
- 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
- 1 small red onion, small dice
- 3 medium carrots, peeled, small dice
- 3 celery stalks, small dice
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 large zucchini, small dice
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and small dice
- 1 (2-inc) piece Parmesan rind
- 1 cup cooked Ditalini pasta
- 2 cups baby spinach, roughly shopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped, for garnish
- Step 1 For the beans: For a “quick soak” rinse the beans, place in a medium-size stock pot and cover with water by two-inches. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Boil the beans for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the beans to sit in the water for 1 hour. While beans are soaking, prep your vegetables and cook your pasta.
- Step 2 Place a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and when hot, but not smoking, add the onions, carrots and celery, sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.
- Step 3 Add the garlic and zucchini and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add the thyme, oregano, salt and pepper and stir well. Add the tomatoes, stock, potatoes, beans and parmesan rind and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes and bean are tender.
- Step 4 Stir in the cooked pasta and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
- Step 5 Add the spinach and adjust the seasoning as needed and cook for a few minutes longer to allow the spinach to wilt.
- Step 6 To serve the soup, garnish with chopped basil. Note: If you do not serve the soup right away, hold off on adding the pasta and spinach until later. Also, when re-heating the soup add 1/2-3/4 cup water to help thin it out a bit if needed, just be sure to readjust the seasoning if you do so.