Everyone has their own idea of what can be considered comfort food, but when I am in need of some pampering, I head to the kitchen and put together a cheesy baked pasta dish, or a huge pot of vegetable soup, also called minestrone. Minestrone means “big soup” and is in fact, a large vegetable soup that reflects both seasonal and regional variations. When one thinks of minestrone, one tends to think of a thick soup made with a variety of vegetables, along with legumes, grains, or pasta. Due to its unique origins and the absence of one traditional recipe, a bowl of minestrone can vary quite a bit from region to region. You can read more about what makes a great pot of soup in my article Minestrone For all Seasons.
This is a soup that I often make and it never requires measuring my ingredients. I often joke that I include everything but the kitchen sink in this soup, hence its name. For best results, do choose fresh, seasonal ingredients, but this soup is very forgiving, and you really cannot go wrong. It is always best when making these types of soups to cut the ingredients in equals sized pieces, and no matter what season it is, I always begin my soup with the Holy trinity of carrots, onions, and celery. I then add some greens, usually kale, or Swiss chard. Other ingredients can include zucchini, winter squash, sweet potatoes, green beans, fennel, and tomatoes. Regional variations can include either rice or pasta although I prefer to include some whole grain such as barley or farro. Legumes can also be included in this hearty soup, turning a bowl of soup into a main course. My favorites legumes are cannellini beans, borlotti beans, or the tiny Trasimeno beans shown in the photos that I bring back from Umbria with me every year.
I will post the recipe for the soup shown in the photos, but you do not need an exact recipe. Simply start your soup with a base of carrots, celery, and onions, and then add to that 4 to 6 more vegetables you prefer chopped in equal pieces. Add a handful of chopped fresh herbs, cover with one to two inches of water and then simmer until tender. Season well with salt and pepper, and once the vegetables are tender, add a handful of pasta or grain, and a can of beans (legumes) that has been drained. It truly is as simple as that! As the soup cooks, you may need to add additional liquid, and although I find water works just fine, you can use vegetable or chicken broth if you prefer.
When serving this soup, my husband prefers his soup ladled over a slice of grilled crusty bread that has been brushed with olive oil. I prefer mine as is, served with a dollop of basil pesto, some grated Pecorino Romano cheese and a sprinkling of cracked black pepper.
Deborah Mele 2015
- 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Large Onion, Diced
- 3 Large Carrots, Peeled & Diced
- 3 Stalks Celery, Diced
- 3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
- 2 Zucchini, Trimmed & Diced
- 1 Large Sweet Potato, Peeled & Diced
- 2 Cups Cherry Tomatoes, Halved
- 4 Cups Chopped Kale
- 1/3 Cup Chopped Parsley Leaves
- 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
- 1/3 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
- 2 Cups Cooked Beans Of Choice (Cannelloni or Borlotti Ae Favorites)
- Basil Pesto or
- Grated Pecorino or Romano Cheese or
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil or
- Cracked Black Pepper
- In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat, then add the onions, carrots, and celery.
- Cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook another minute or two.
- Add the zucchini, sweet potato, cherry tomatoes, kale, parsley, oregano, and basil.
- Cover the vegetables with enough water or broth to cover the vegetables by an inch or two, then bring to a boil.
- Decrease the heat to a simmer, then cook until all of the vegetables are very tender, about 45 minutes.
- Taste, then adjust the salt and pepper as needed.
- Add the beans, along with additional liquid as needed if the soup is too thick.
- Serve the soup warm, with your topping of choice.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 339 Total Fat: 18g Saturated Fat: 4g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 13g Cholesterol: 12mg Sodium: 543mg Carbohydrates: 38g Fiber: 9g Sugar: 14g Protein: 12g