Thursday, September 15, 2011

Garden Vegetable Minestrone

I'm a little bit of a quest to create a recipe for minestrone that matches up to the minestrone served at Olive Garden.  I've gotten close, but still no definitive success.

Still, I have discovered that the best time to make minestrone is in late summer when garden vegetables are at their peak.  It helps to make it on a day that's rather cool, and I recently had such a day with time to get some soup on.

This is surprisingly simple, and oh so tasty.  Here's everything you need:


Garden Vegetable Minestrone

  • 32 ounces chicken stock or chicken broth, or vegetable stock (I used Swanson)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 2 small to medium zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 16 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice, or six good sized tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used flat Italian, or Roma, beans)
  • 1 to 2 cups dried navy beans, cooked according to package directions, or 2 cans of navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh sweet peas
  • 1 packed cup baby spinach
  • 3 to 4 cups small pasta shells, or ditalini, cooked according to package directions and drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or thyme
  • 1 bay leaf

1.  Saute onion and garlic in olive oil in the bottom of a large soup pot until tender, but not browned.

2.  Add chicken stock or broth and bring to a boil.
3. Add vegetables, except spinach, and herbs, then cover and let simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and tasting for seasoning.
4. Cook pasta according to pack directions, drain and set aside.

5. About five minutes before serving, add spinach to the pot and stir in to combine.  You're really just wilting the spinach.
6. Add pasta, stirring to combine, and let simmer five more minutes.  Serve with shredded Parmesan cheese and crusty bread.

You'll notice a couple things - I didn't have diced tomatoes so I used crushed tomatoes instead, which made for a really thick broth.  It was good, but not quite what I was going for.  Also, I added way too much pasta and navy beans - it ended up being more like a stew.  And lastly, I used dried beans rather than canned, and they really weren't quite cooked through.  I'd definitely suggest cooking the beans separately and adding them with the pasta at the end.

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