Traveling the world through cuisine

The Simplified Life

Vegetables in a Farmer's Market

I love to cook. It's no secret, and while I've learned and created many sumptuous meals for this blog, my usual mealtimes are actually quite simple. Often my lunches will be a sandwich or wrap with some chips, and my dinners a salad, soup, or both.

Soup is probably one of the easiest and most ideal meals for those on diets, or even just those seeking simplicity at mealtime. I personally hate the notion of cooking dinners when I just spent 8-10 hours working, thus heating up a bowl of soup served with a decent bread is pure heaven.

Now if you're seeking a great mealtime soup, then you can't go wrong with a good minestrone. It's perhaps a prime staple of what we know as the Mediterranean diet. The soup's origin dates way back to the late Roman Empire, as poor peasants used whatever they had on hand to eat, often vegetables grown in their own household gardens.

Over the centuries, the minestrone recipe evolved and changed as some ingredients faded out of culinary existence and new items came to Europe. The one commonality that remained is the secret the Mediterranean populace realized in the health benefits of this "frugal" diet. To this day I'd highly recommend a bowl of minestrone as a filling dinner that's low in calories, since it's all vegetables.

Now there isn't one set "official recipe" for minestrone. I based mine off the canned soups I've had, but you're welcome to change and variate to your personal taste. Again in the spirit of the peasants of yesteryear, treat it more like a "potluck" of what you had on hand, maybe out of your own personal garden.

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 3 yellow onions, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 stalks of celery, diced
  • 2 large carrots, diced
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 3/4 lb of peas
  • 3/4 lb of green beans
  • 2 tsp of oregano
  • 2 tsp of basil
  • 2 tsp of paprika
  • 1 can (8 oz) of tomato sauce
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) of diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 can (15 oz) of chick peas, drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) of kidney beans, drained
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For serving:

  • Cooked pasta
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil

Instructions

  1. In a stock pot, heat up the olive oil on medium-high heat.
  2. Place the onion in the oil and cook until soft.
  3. Add in the garlic and cook for a minute or two until fragrant.
  4. Stir in the celery, carrots and potatoes.
  5. Cook the mixture until all vegetables soften.
  6. Place the peas and green beans into the pot.
  7. Season the mixture with oregano, basil, paprika, salt, and pepper.
  8. Add in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and water.
  9. Stir thoroughly and bring the soup to a boil.
  10. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for ten minutes.
  11. Add in the chick and kidney beans, and continue simmering until they are tender, stirring occasionally.

Quick Notes

A handy shortcut would be to use frozen peas and green beans. Just defrost them before cooking.

If you wish to avoid canned beans, then be sure to fully soak dried beans before using.

When storing the soup, I'd suggest not leaving the pasta in the pot, but adding it as you serve. This will keep the pasta from disintegrating and thus not make your soup into a sludge. You can also freeze some of it if you like.

Variations

Remember there isn't any set "official" recipe for minestrone. So you can variate this soup any way you like. Add or remove any ingredients as you see fit. Remember, the Italian peasants made this soup more like a "potluck" of whatever they had on hand to put in. If you decide to add meat, be sure to brown it first before you even cook the onions.

The pasta is also open to translation. I usually like to use penne, but rotini, elbows, or shells will work wonderfully as well. Some will use strand pastas such as spaghetti, but I find it not as ideal for a soup.

Serving Suggestions

Place some pasta in each bowl and ladle the soup over it. Top with Parmesan cheese and a some of the fresh basil.

Tags: Italian, minestrone, soup, vegetable, Mediterranean diet

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