Minestrone is basically Italian for “throw everything you have in a big soup pot”. In Slovenia it’s known as mineštra. In America, it’s called Campbell’s Chunky Vegetable Soup.
Whatever you call it, minestrone is amazingly delicious, amazingly flexible, and amazingly healthy. (Amazingly, I just used the word “amazingly” three times in one sentence without sounding amazingly affected.)
There really isn’t a fixed recipe for minestrone. In the distant culinary past, it was always made with whatever was seasonal and on-hand, which can include any number and variety of vegetables, meat, pasta, or rice, and can range from thick and dense with very boiled-down vegetables to brothy with chunks of lightly cooked veggies.
Below is the recipe I use, more or less (more – or less – on that under the thoughts below).
- ¼ c. olive oil
- 2 oz. diced bacon
- 1 med. onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 2 stalks celery, sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 potato, peeled and diced
- 3 c. finely shredded cabbage (or spinach)
- 2 small zucchini, diced
- 8 oz. cauliflower
- ¾ c. dried canellini, cooked
- 1-15 oz. can diced tomatoes with juices
- 6 c. beef stock
- 2 c. water
- 1 t. each dried thyme, oregano, and basil as well as a few stems of fresh parsley chopped
- Salt and pepper
- Warm the olive oil in a large soup pot over med. heat. Add the bacon and cook for 2 to 3 min. Begin adding vegetables in the order presented above, up to and including the cauliflower, one at a time and cooking each addition 2 to 3 min. If you wish, you can prepare each one as the previous is added as opposed to preparing them all in advance.
- At this point, salt and pepper lightly, starting with about 1 t. salt. Add the tomatoes, stock, water, and herbs and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently for one hour. Taste for salt.
- Add the beans and simmer again for 15 minutes. The soup should never be watery or thin but rather substantial. If it appears too thin, continue to cook it, uncovered, until more liquid evaporates.
- Taste again and adjust the seasonings.
- I leave out the bacon. You should feel free to add or omit it based on your personal health convictions. (Some recipes call for pancetta. Again, in or out – up to you.)
- You can use chicken, vegetable, or even bean stock instead of beef (bean stock would make it pretty thick). I bought a container of beef broth by mistake one day and used it in the first batch I ever made – it has henceforth been my choice for this particular soup.
- You can also substitute Great Northern beans for the cannellini. I will tell you, however, that the texture and flavor of cannellini is a perfect complement to this particular soup. They’re not easy to find dry, but worth the search. (Surprisingly, my local Walmart Supercenter is the only place I can find them.) You can also use canned if that’s all you can find.
- The ingredients above are pretty standard for minestrone; however, I didn’t have any cauliflower or potatoes on hand this time so I left them out (and didn’t miss them at all – there are enough guests at that party already to keep your mouth dancing). As long as you include tomatoes and the herbs, you’ll end up with something akin to minestrone.
This is the last in my series of soup and stew recipes (at least until I find another soup and/or stew recipe I can’t resist). I encourage you to try some of these or wander through the internet and collect some of your own. Soups and stews are some of the easiest and – depending on how you cook them – healthiest dishes to prepare.
So grab a ladle – soup’s on!