Minestrone Soup and Pantry Raids
Minestrone soup belongs to the “Pantry Raid” category in the Flipped-Out Food Playbook. Except for the mirepoix, all ingredients come from cans in your pantry. Yes, cans. Cans really come through in a pinch. For example, those times when you get back from a vacation and don’t have any food in the house. You really don’t feel like grocery shopping. (A notable exception: celery, onions, garlic, and carrots are spared when I clean out my refrigerator before leaving for our trip).
Despite the fact that this minestrone soup is made almost entirely of pantry items, it has deep, rich flavors because of a couple of critical flavor-building steps. These make the soup taste as though it’s been simmering all day. I use fish sauce to punch up the umami factor (you could also use anchovy paste or 2-3 anchovy fillets), and caramelize some tomato paste before adding a good amount of full-bodied red wine (a great reason to keep those 1-serving wine bottles on hand!).
I add beef broth and round out the flavor with some Italian herbs and a bay leaf. Two kinds of beans and some diced tomatoes make this minestrone soup recipe extra hearty and healthy.
The pot of minestrone soup simmers while I boil my pasta (I do this separately so that the pasta doesn’t soak up all of my delicious broth). I keep a lot of different pasta shapes and odds-and-ends for this soup—my favorites are orzo, ditalini, and acini, but just about anything will do. By the time I drain my pasta and add it to the pot, the soup is done.
I love to sprinkle some fresh parsley on the finished minestrone soup. However, fresh herbs are not something I usually have on hand after a vacation. It’s not a deal-breaker if you don’t have any. Definitely grate some Parmesan cheese (or, better yet, use a vegetable peeler and make Parmesan shavings!). Crusty bread is also nice, but again, not a deal-breaker.
Minestrone Soup: vegetarian option
This minestrone soup easily becomes vegetarian by simply subbing vegetable broth for beef broth and using a vegetarian substitute for fish sauce, like this one from Cook’s Illustrated (or, substitute liquid aminos—OR, just skip the fish sauce altogether). Also be sure to use a vegetarian-friendly cheese for serving. (Did you know? In order for a cheese to be called “Parmesan,” it must be made with animal rennet. Whole Foods and many other retailers sell “Parmesan-like” cheeses that are vegetarian and will work just fine).
This is Italian-inspired comfort food—pure and simple. This basic recipe is very easy to riff on, for example, by adding seasonal produce or playing with the seasoning. Better yet, the ingredients for the soup come almost entirely from your pantry! Top it with grated pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese and a few grinds of black pepper. A chunk of crusty bread would be a wonderful addition.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion chopped
- 3 medium carrots peeled and chopped into small cubes
- 3 stalks of celery cut into small cubes
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 10 cups beef or chicken stock or water
- 1 15- ounce can garbanzo beans drained and rinsed
- 1 15- ounce can kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 1 14- ounce can of diced tomatoes with juice
- 1 cup red wine
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano or Italian herbs optional
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups of pasta such as elbow macaroni, orzo, acini, or other small pasta
- 1/4 cup parsley chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper
- grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
- 2-3 cups savoy cabbage shredded
- 1 large bunch of kale cleaned and chopped
- fresh seasonal vegetables (e.g., green beans and/or zucchini. Just make sure to add at the proper time so that your veggie of choice doesn’t get overcooked!)
Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots and celery. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion is softened, but not browned. Add the garlic and stir for 1 minute. Add the fish sauce; sauté until almost completely reduced, about 1 minute more. Add the garbanzo beans and tomato paste.
Sauté for 2 minutes more, until the tomato paste darkens slightly. Turn up the heat and add the wine. Allow the soup to cook down for about 30 seconds. Add the stock or water, tomatoes with their juice, kidney beans, bay leaf, and herbs. Bring to a boil and add kosher salt. Reduce to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Make-ahead tip: this soup tastes even better if you stop HERE and keep it refrigerated for a day or so.
While the soup simmers, cook your pasta according to package directions in a large pot of well-salted water.
Raise the heat of the soup to medium to a gentle boil. If you are using kale, cabbage, or zucchini, add it now. Cook until the vegetables are softened. Stir in the drained pasta. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and serve with a sprinkling of chopped parsley, grated Romano or Parmesan cheese, and fresh ground pepper. Enjoy!
Make this soup vegetarian by using vegetable stock, omitting the fish sauce, and using vegetarian Parmesan cheese.
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comfort food at its best, this soup is incredibly easy to make with the “throw it in the slow-cooker and go” strategy. I always make a big batch because it freezes really well and really comes through when I need an easy dinner or don’t have any food in the house (like after vacations!).
All about those crazy-busy times and still getting a great meal on the table with pantry staples!