The weather is beginning to turn cold here (in Moroccan terms, that means it rained a little this week) so of course my thoughts turned to soup. ((Actually, my thoughts turned to stir-fry first, but broccoli was not to be found for love of money. Since I’d already bought the other ingredients at our delightful Berber Sunday market, I had to rethink my meal plan.)) Erm. I mean, I began craving soup. ((My thoughts are soupy on a regular basis, so that’s no cause for comment.))
I have always loved minestrone, but it never made me giggle until I watched Green Wing for the first time. Here’s the scene in question:
So without further ado, I bring you minestrone-flavored minestrone. Vegetarian, vegan, relatively low-sodium, ((Relative to canned soup. Now that I’m a homemade soup enthusiast, I don’t know how I ever could have tolerated the lumpy, overcooked, way-too-salty stuff they put in cans.)) packed full of fresh vegetables, and utterly delicious.
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large onions, roughly chopped
- 5 carrots, sliced
- 2 cups green beans, chopped ((Yes, you can used canned, but let your conscience be your guide.))
- 3 large tomatoes, diced
- 1 large zucchini, quartered and sliced
- 2 cups baby spinach, rinsed
- 1 can kidney beans
- 2 cups tomato sauce
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil (or 1 tbsp dried)
- 1 tbsp fresh chopped oregano (or 1/2 tbsp dried)
- a pinch of paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups vegetable or chicken broth ((If you are using bouillon cubes, the usual ration is 1 cube to 1 cup water.))
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup dry pasta ((I prefer ditalini in minestrone, but I couldn’t find any here so I used tricolor pasta instead, which really looks nice with the red shades of the soup.))
- 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
Make your chicken or vegetable stock now. I hate getting halfway through a recipe and realizing that I have to pause everything to make my stock. Do it first.
Chop chop chop your vegetables. I don’t know if I’ve ever shared this with you, but I actually put a row of small bowls across the kitchen counter, one for each type of vegetable. ((If there are two that go into the recipe at the same time, they can snuggle up together in one bowl.)) This may sound silly and unnecessary, but it makes it much easier when it’s time to add your ingredients, one by one. Plus, you can look at the neat little bowls of sliced vegetables and admire your fantastic chopping skills.
In a very large pot, ((Just look at all your vegetables to see how big this thing will have to be. Really big.)) heat the olive oil. Sautée your minced garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add 3/4 of the chopped onions plus about a third of your spices– including a liberal sprinkling of pepper, and continue sautéeing for 4-5 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, green beans, and another third of the spices. ((This does not have to be exact. Just wing it.)) Sauté for 3 minutes.
Pour in the tomato sauce, chicken broth, and water. Bring to a boil. ((You can add 1/2 cup of red wine at this stage if you want, but I was too lazy to open a new bottle.)) Add kidney beans, spinach, zucchini, the rest of the onions, ((I frequently put some onions aside this way to have some crispiness in recipes in addition to the soft, fully simmered onions.)) and the remaining third of your spices. Cover and simmer for at least one hour.
In another pot, make your pasta. Al dente, though, because it will absorb a lot of moisture from the soup later on. ((Some recipes instruct you to pour the soup over your pasta just before serving. I don’t like this method, because it means that the pasta doesn’t have time to absorb any flavor of the soup. Others will tell you to just cook the dry pasta in the soup itself, but this minestrone is so thick that I’m not sure the pasta would cook all the way.))
Mix the pasta into the soup, cover, and continue to simmer until you’re ready to serve. ((You can also fill individual bowls with pasta, then pour the soup over it right before serving, which prevents the pasta from absorbing all the liquid.)) Feeds at least six quite hungry people, eight who don’t need second helpings, or ten who are saving room for dessert. ((Scale note for the photo below: that is a very large bowl with a tiny spoon and tiny bread.))