Minestrone could be called an Italian peasant soup as it was typically served centuries ago in more rural farm life where vegetable gardens provided the main ingredients. Today I use it to “clean out” the refrigerator of vegetables nearing their expiration dates, if you know what I mean. Minestrone can be meatless but still provide an abundance of protein found in the vegetables, pasta and beans, but meat can also be added. I’ve seen recipes with pancetta, bacon, and ground beef. Either way the broth, vegetables and seasonings combine to create a satisfying meal needing only a slice of toasted garlic baguette to complete it.
Use whatever vegetables you have on hand, but like most soups, you start with the basics: chopped onion, celery, garlic and carrots. I’m adding some ground beef to this recipe, and brown it ahead of the vegetables, but you can skip the meat and go straight to the vegetables if you wish, using a little olive oil to saute the vegetables. Once the vegetables have softened a bit, you add the broth along with canned tomatoes, diced potato, green beans and seasonings including basil, oregano and a bay leaf. Simmer until potatoes are softened and then finish off with fresh cabbage (sometimes I use spinach or kale), diced zucchini, chopped fresh parsley, white cannellini and/or kidney beans and cooked elbow pasta. Let this simmer a little longer, correct seasonings if needed and you’re ready to serve. Have the shaved Parmesan ready for topping.
- Minestrone Soup
- 1 pound extra lean ground beef
- 1 cup diced onion
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 cup sliced carrots
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth (I use Better Than Bouillon vegetable base)
- 1 large potato, scrubbed and diced
- 2 cups (1/2 pound) fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 (26-ounce) can Italian-style crushed tomatoes
- 1 (15-ounce) can Italian-style ready-cut stewed tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried basil leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
- 1/2 tsp each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup sliced cabbage
- 1 cup diced zucchini
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup whole grain elbow macaroni pasta, cooked according to package instructions (will make abut 2 1/4 cups cooked)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
- Shaved Parmesan cheese
- Add beef to a large stock pot placed over medium-high heat. Brown the meat by breaking it apart with a large spoon. Add the onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Saute vegetables for 3-4 minutes or until they soften slightly and onions become translucent.
- Add broth, potato, green beans, canned tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt, black pepper and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until potato is soft.
- Add cabbage, zucchini, beans, pasta and parsley. Continue to simmer for another 5-10 minutes or until vegetables are soft. If soup is too thick, add more liquid (broth or water). Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper as needed.
- Serve with shaved Parmesan cheese.
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