Texas winters may not compare to the winters experienced in Vermont, Alaska or even Missouri but we still get cold days and we still need our cold-day soups. As I covered some of our more fragile plants with blankets and sheets to protect from the impending freeze I knew it was going to be a soup night. But, what soup?
It didn’t take me long to enthusiastically decide to put on a huge pot of my new favorite soup, minestrone. This “big soup,” as it is translated, is chocked full of scrumptious vegetables, hearty legumes, incredible italian flavors, all backed by a delicious broth. In my book, that’s the makings of a perfect soup. Minestrone is definitely a meal on its own and the only thing that can make this soup even better is a big slice of delicious bread.
This is a fairly simple soup; depending on if you use fresh or canned beans, and if you decide to make your own broth–something I definitely suggest, as vegetable broths are super easy–this soup will take between 45 minutes and two hours. Of course, the pest part of soup is, most of that time is spent out of the kitchen while the soup does all the work.
My minestrone is also just one ingredient shy of being vegetarian, and just two shy of being vegan. Bacon and parmesan are those two ingredients and while I say they are vital for us omnivores and dairy eaters, if you are not, feel free to remove one or both. You will still get a delicious soup though you may need to use a tad more salt.
This recipe produces a lot of soup, enough to feed a small town, or eight hungry mouths two times over. You can cut the recipe in half if you’d like, but one of my favorite parts of soup is it’s incredible leftover potential. It’s perfect for a quick lunch–just heat a bowl up in the microwave for a couple minutes–or a quick dinner–just bring the soup to a slow simmer in a pot to heat through.
4 quarts Vegetable broth, preferably homemade
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 slices bacon, sliced fairly thin
1 1/2 cup chopped onion (1 1/2 medium onions)
2 cups sliced carrots (about 5 carrots)
1 cup chopped celery
4 cups chopped cabbage (1/2 cabbage)
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped potatoes (2-3 medium potatoes)
1 parmesan cheese rind
5 ounces vermicelli
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
1 1/3 cup garbanzo beans, cooked
1 1/3 cup red kidney beans, cooked
1 1/3 cup navy beans, cooked
1/2 cup pesto, recipe below
Salt & pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan to taste, as garnish
Step One: Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook through, about five minutes.
Step Two: Add the onions, carrots, celery and cabbage. Cook about eight minutes, stirring the mixture often, until the notions are just translucent.
Step Three: Add the garlic and cook another two minutes.
Step Four: Add the hot broth, potatoes and Parmesan cheese rind. Bring the liquid to a slow simmer* and cook at a very slow simmer for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
*Do not let the pot come to a full boil. With a slow simmer you’ll see a few stray bubbles pop to the surface every few seconds. This low-temperate simmer is perfect for soups.
Step Five: Meanwhile, cook the vermicelli according to the box. Drain and set aside. Make the pesto (recipe & instructions below).
Step Six: After 30 minutes or once the vegetables are tender, add the cooked vermicelli, cooked beans and tomatoes.
Step Seven: Season the soup with pesto and salt and pepper to taste. Remove the parmesan rind.
Serve this soup with grated Parmesan on top and enjoy!
3/4 cup chopped basil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3 tablespoon roasted pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
3 cloves chopped garlic
1/3 cup good olive oil
Step One: Add the basil, parsley, pine nuts, parmesan and garlic to a food processor or blender, pulse until broken down.
Step Two: With the processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil and mix until you have a paste.