Italian cookbooks, especially ones concerned with soups, or zuppa (plural zuppe), provide recipe after recipe for minestrona, lest you thought minestrone was one soup. Minestra translates simply into soup, and while minestrone may literally mean ‘thick soup’ there are as many versions as there are people to make them. Their ingredients depend on the district and the vegetables in season. They generally have lots of vegetables and may include beans, potatoes, squash, and often, cured pork products. Lighter soups are sometimes called minestrina.
This satisfying minestrone soup is a classic palette augmented with fresh greens like arugula (rocket), watercress, radicchio, baby spinach, endive, or even dandelion greens, added at the very end. Filled with fresh herbs, vegetables, and creamy white beans, its pure comfort food.
Don’t be afraid to make it your own. Using this soup as a basis you can crib a secret from restaurant chefs: Use up your leftover vegetables and fresh herbs.
The pasta is entirely optional. It is best to cook the pasta separately instead of adding it to the soup with the rest of the ingredients. When the pasta is cooked in the soup, starch will be released into the broth, which will thicken it and make it cloudy. As well, the pasta will continue cooking even as the soup is off the heat, becoming soft and mushy. Here, will dish perfectly cooked pasta into bowls and pour the soup right over. The next day, the soup will still be great and you can make more pasta or just have it without. Leftovers can also be frozen for later use.
For an authentic Italian pasta, I recommend De Cecco Fusilli.
Minestrone with Fresh Greens
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 50-55 minutes
3 T. extra virgin olive oil, divided
2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ medium yellow onion, finely chopped
3 medium carrots, finely chopped
3 large stalks celery, finely chopped
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 15.5 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 c. organic vegetable broth (plus additional reserve)*
2 whole bay leaves
1 T. fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped (or 1 t. dried)
1 T. fresh thyme leaves (or 1 t. dried)
1 T. fresh oregano leaves (or 1 t. dried)
½ T. crushed red pepper flakes
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Optional: 3” Parmesan cheese rind
2 c. Fusilli pasta
2 c. fresh green beans, cut into ½” pieces
2 c. fresh arugula or other greens (watercress, radicchio, baby spinach, endive, or even dandelion greens, etc.)
¼ c. fresh parsley leaves, chopped
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- You can add more broth to reach desired consistency if needed
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and garlic in a large pot or over medium-high heat. Sauté garlic, stirring occasionally, for 2-3 minutes or until garlic begins to turn golden brown.
Add the chopped onion, carrot, and celery and cook for another 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until vegetables are soft and tender.
Add the canned diced tomatoes, cannellini beans, 4 cups vegetable broth, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and red pepper flakes to the pot and stir to combine. Add Parmesan cheese rind, if desired, and season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer 20-25 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid before draining pasta. Rinse pasta and transfer to a medium bowl and toss with remaining olive oil. Cover and set aside.
Remove cover from pot or Dutch oven and add green beans and the reserved pasta cooking liquid. Stir to combine and continue cooking, uncovered, another 20-25 minutes or until green beans are crisp-tender.
Add the greens and additional vegetable broth, if needed, and stir to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until arugula begins to wilt.
To serve, divide cooked pasta among individual serving bowls and top with hot soup. Top with chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serve with crusty bread and/or a crisp, green side salad for a hearty meal.
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