Classic Minestrone

This is nothing more comforting on a rainy, mid-February Monday than a bowl of steamy Minestrone. It’s the vegetarian’s chicken soup.

From the cook’s perspective this soup is made for a kitchen clean-out. You can vary the ingredient list depending on what you fine languishing in the crisper: kale, cabbage, chard, parsnips, turnips, celery root — you name it, practically anything will land happily in the pot.

The Parmesan rind is an old trick that Italian grandma’s have employed for eons. It’s a thrifty use of the hard cheese end (that others might toss in the trash) — and adds unbelievable flavor to the broth. You might also stir some garlicky pesto into the bowl at serving for a little extra something (store-bought or homemade).

You can omit the rosemary and parsley if you don’t have them, but be sure to use the thyme and oregano. Dried thyme is quite acceptable if you don’t have fresh in the garden.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 sliced leek (or substitute more onion)
  • 1 cup sliced, peeled carrot (or parsnip)
  • 1 cup sliced celery (or fennel bulb)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can kidney or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 28 ounce can tomatoes, puréed
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dry)
  • 1 sprig rosemary (or pinch of dry)
  • 3 tablespoon fresh parsley
  • 8 cups water
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • One 2-inch Parmesan rind
  • 1-1/2 cups cubed potato (or turnip)
  • 3 large collard leaves, stems removed and leaves chopped (or any leafy green)
  • Cooked pasta noodles (about 3/4 cup dry)

Method:

  1. Sauté onion, leek, carrot, celery and garlic in oil over medium heat in a large soup pot until soft and onion is starting to brown. Add canned tomatoes, beans and herbs. Cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Add water, salt, Parmesan rind, potato and collards. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer gently until potato is very tender and greens are cooked (at least 20 minutes). An extra bit of cooking is great, if you have the time, to get every bit of goodness out of the Parmesan rind.
  3. Remove bay leaves, herb stems and rind from pot. Add pasta noodles to each bowl and ladle soup on top to serve. Stir in some fresh pesto if you like.
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