MInestrone, every cook seems to have a recipe. Mama D has one, too. In fact over the years she’s made various kinds of Minestrone. I must confess this one is new. My old go-to recipe was kind of boring so I decided to reinvent it. I also wanted to find out a little more about where it came from and see what other people put in their soup. Inspiration is a good thing, after all.
Minestrone has lots of different versions. Even Italians can’t agree (no surprise there). Every recipe I looked at had a slightly different ingredient list. Some featured meat, others didn’t. Vegetables varied from a few onions and tomatoes to an entire produce market. The only constant seems to be that it is a vegetable soup with beans. Historically, it is considered “cucina povera” food of the poor because the ingredients are accessible to all and usually change seasonally. Anyway you cook it it’s cheap.
There are two inspirations for this recipe. One is the vegetable stock that I recently made. The other is an article from “Fine Cooking” magazine about dried garbanzo beans. Pot O’ Gold by Melissa Pellegrino. These have become the basis for the soup I’m sharing today.
I would call this recipe a Winter Minestrone. It is winter (snow on the ground and single digit temperatures). I steadfastly like to use what I have in the house so the ingredients are quite basic. The soup starts with a medley of vegetables with onion being in the majority. Carrots and garlic round out the aromatics. These are sweated in some olive oil along with a little potato. Canned tomatoes are added for color and flavor. I went with a modest amount of tomatoes, but feel free to use the big can.
I used a combination of vegetable stock and garbanzo cooking water (this adds a little more bean flavor and also thickens things a bit), and added a small Parmesan rind because I had one. I added lots of garbanzo beans There really is a difference with garbanzos home cooked, They are creamier and oh, so flavorful. I would probably go with fresh green beans in this, but I couldn’t find any that looked like they would actually taste like green beans so I opted for frozen cut green beans that I thawed. That rounded out the main ingredients.
I like most of my soups a little on the thick side. To create a little more body in many of my soups, including this one, I add potato flakes. I’m using them as an ingredient so I won’t call them by their real name, Instant Mashed Potatoes. I know what you’re thinking, and no, I don’t use them in their traditional way. They incorporate almost instantly, and because they are used in small quantities they don’t impart much flavor. Give it a try…you’ll be surprised.
Pesto is green goodness. It adds that slap you in the face flavor and takes whatever you put it in to another level. I always have this in my freezer for just his kind of occasion. It is a wonderful addition to the soup. I like my pesto subtle so I make it with roasted garlic. I freeze it in 1/4 cup portions. it sounds like a small amount, but it goes a long way. If you choose to add more, I won’t be offended. i won’t even mind if you leave it out. That goes for anything in this recipe. I will probably make this soup differently the next time depending on my mood and my pantry. That’s the beauty of cooking…what rules there are, can usually be broken or at least bent a little.
Winter has only just begun. There’s plenty of time for a hearty bowl of Minestrone. Enjoy – Mama D