Minestrone is an incredibly easy, but flavorful soup that can be done in short-order using mostly pantry staples.
Minestrone 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, like those times when you get back from a vacation and don’t have any food in the house and really don’t feel like grocery shopping (an exception to that dire situation: celery, onions, garlic, and carrots are spared when I clean out my refrigerator before leaving for our trip).
Despite the fact that this minestrone is made almost entirely of pantry items, it has deep, rich flavors because of a couple of critical flavor-building steps that make the soup taste like 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 filets), 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 extra hearty and healthy.
The pot of minestrone 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, but fresh herbs are not something I usually have on hand after a vacation, and 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.
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. 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).
- 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
- 1½ cups of pasta, such as elbow macaroni, orzo, acini, or other small pasta
- ¼ cup parsley, chopped
- Freshly ground black pepper
- grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
- 2-3 cups of savoy cabbage, shredded
- 1 large bunch of kale, cleaned and chopped
- You can also fresh seasonal vegetables, for example 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!
If you liked Minestrone, you’ll love…
this is one of my family’s straight-from-the-pantry meals. It’s done in well under 30 minutes, but packs a ton of flavor. With the addition of a couple more ingredients (I’ll let you guess what ONE of them is!) you can have Penne alla Vodka!
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!