Although we have been lucky up until now here in southwestern Ontario with weather, winter has just arrived and it is the perfect time to make a big batch of minestrone.
Minestrone is a hearty Italian soup with tons of vegetables that hits the spot every time.
Nonno Giovanni and Nonna Caterina use their precious garden harvest from the freezer to prepare this soup often during the winter months. Minestrone can be made a thousand ways, using a mix of vegetables that suit your preference or just what you happen to have on hand. My mom sometimes calls it ‘clean out the fridge’ minestrone. There are, of course, what might be considered the usual suspects such as potatoes, beans, carrots and celery. After that, it’s up to you! This combination from Nonno Giovanni and Nonna Caterina, I gotta say, is awesome and has a heartiness that just hits the spot on a cold day. Throughout Italy you will find many variations of this common dish as people use what grows locally. Eat local and eat fresh are not new concepts for Italian cooking.
Nonno and nonna don’t fool around when they make minestrone. In fact, we walked back to their shed to witness them making a 40 liter pot! We’ll scale it down of course so you can make a small batch for dinner but if you’re up to it you can definitely make a large batch for a great ready-made soup any time as this freezes very well.
A full bowl of this won’t leave you wanting much else for dinner but for a change-up you can add a little bit of small pasta (little tube or shells) or barley that is pre-cooked. Only add this to the minestrone that is to be eaten right away. If you are freezing batches then you would add pasta or barley when reheating.
Don’t forget freshly grated parmesan cheese sprinkled on top and lots of crusty bread to accompany this yummy, satisfying soup!
Try it out, let us know what you think!
- 6L water
- 2 tomatoes diced
- 3 carrots diced
- 3-4 celery stalks chopped into bite size pieces
- Swiss chard-medium size bunch, washed and chopped
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 potatoes diced
- 2 cans mixed beans (or see note below)
- Salt and pepper to season to your liking
- Grated parmesan cheese for sprinkling before serving.
- Beef or chicken (already cooked and diced) (optional)
- Pasta noodles/shells/ barley or rice (optional). Cook desired quantity separately and add just before serving if being eaten right away)
Using an 8L stock pot add
- 6 L water, tomatoes, carrots, celery, swiss chard, onion, beans if using frozen or rehydrated.
- Season with salt and pepper, and other spices if using (see note below).
- Bring to a boil then reduce heat and let all of these ingredients cook together in the covered pot for about an hour on low to medium heat so that it boils gently.
- After an hour, add the potatoes and let cook for another hour.
- If using canned beans, add these 30 minutes after the potatoes have been added and allow to cook together for the last 30 minutes.
- (Total cooking time is 2 hours)
- Add the cooked/diced meat, if using, for the last 15 minutes.
- Add the cooked pasta/rice/barley a few minutes before serving if desired.
- Serve in bowls and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
- For the beans, you can use dry and rehydrate according to package then add at the beginning with everything else. If using beans from the garden that you have frozen, cook them separately for about 1/2 hour then add to minestrone at the beginning.
- Other spices such as a bay leaf (remove before serving) or chilli pepper flakes can be added if desired.
- Try sautéing the celery, carrot, and onion in a small amount of olive oil for about 5-6 minutes before adding to the stock pot.