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Minestrone – The Mix and Match Soup

07 Nov

Minestrone with tomatoes and chicken

An Italian peasant dish, the name minestrone roughly translates as “the big soup.” With humble origins that date back to the Roman Empire, there is no true recipe for minestrone. This means there is no right or wrong way to make it; don’t you just love recipes with versatility?? Across Italy, even to this day, minestrone will vary from region to region. Although traditionally a vegetable based soup using seasonal crops, you’ll often find the additional of beans, rice and pasta. To me, minestrone isn’t minestrone unless it has tomatoes in it (interestingly, according to Wikipedia, this is a totally American custom).

A hearty dish, minestrone takes on an “everything but the kitchen sink” quality because you can literally use anything that appeals to you at the moment. Vegetables that are at their tipping point in the crisper drawer, along with leftover rice, pasta or beans, can frequently be salvaged by throwing them in the pot. Need more protein on a given day? Toss in some diced chicken or Italian sausage. The sky is the limit.

Legend has it that minestrone tastes better the next day. Being cooked ahead of time and gently reheated allows the flavors to meld. As my Grannie used to say, “Mangia!”

Kat’s Totally American Minestrone 

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 to 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup cooked white beans (or one can beans, rinsed and drained)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh basil or one teaspoon dried
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 large (28 oz) can diced tomatoes (undrained)
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced on a diagonal
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2 cups cooked small pasta (like orzo) or rice
  • Diced chicken or sausage (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. In a large Dutch oven or stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking.
  2. Add the onion and celery; sauté a few minutes until the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and sauté for about two minutes.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients up to the pasta. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat back to medium low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.
  5. Add in the rice or pasta. If adding cooked meat, add this now.
  6. Bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until heated through.
  7. Divide into soup bowls and sprinkle with grated cheese

Serves four for a main meal

Kat’s tip: Orzo will soak up the liquid from the soup if stored together. If you’re not planning on eating this all in one sitting then I recommend leaving the orzo out. You can add 1/2 cup of orzo to each serving as you reheat it. The orzo can be stored in the fridge in either ziplock baggies or plasticware. It can also be frozen until ready to use.

Kat’s Second Tip: I keep a bag of frozen mixed soup veggies on hand for times when I want soup in a hurry. For a single serving or quick version of this I’ll heat up 2 cups of chicken broth with the mixed veggies, some diced chicken, brown rice and white beans.

Nutritional information (without meat):

Calories 398.6  Total Fat 9.4 g  Cholesterol 0.0 mg  Sodium 605.6 mg  Potassium 782.4 mg  Total Carbohydrate 63.5 g  Protein 12.7 g

Nutritional information (with 8 oz cooked chicken)

Calories 460.9  Total Fat 10.1 g  Cholesterol 32.9.0 mg  Sodium 642 mg  Potassium 926.9 mg  Total Carbohydrate 63.5 g  Protein 25.7 g

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