by Lindsay Taub (aka Modern Hostess)
The leaves are changing colours, there’s a distinctly autumn chill in the air, the last of the tomatoes have been harvested… and that can only mean one thing: it’s soup season. Soup is obviously great any time of year, but now is when I crave it, and make big batches to enjoy all week or freeze for later. Minestrone Soup is always on repeat around here, and for good reason: it’s delicious, it’s easy to make, and it’s a complete meal on its own (though it’s also great with some fresh bread… but what isn’t?).
I don’t know about you, but I have made some BLAND soups in my day and I am so over that. Allow me to share why this soup ends up delicious every time. #1, the sausages. Yes, they have a high fat content but that’s why they taste so good. And one serving of soup contains maybe half a sausage total. Try not to move the sausages around too much when they get into the pan, because that nice golden crust that develops when the meat caramelizes will add a rich depth of flavour to your soup. #2, the parmesan rind. I always save these and throw them in the freezer. They add that “je ne sais quoi” that you taste in many restaurant dishes. #3, the fresh herbs. Thyme and rosemary are my favourites in this recipe. Sometimes, I only have one of those, so that’s what I use. Finally, the broth. I use homemade when I have it… it truly makes a difference. If I don’t, I use a good quality prepared broth. These items really bring the flavour of your soup to the next level.
Minestrone soup is comfort food that is actually good for you, and is easily adaptable to what you like or already have in your fridge/pantry. Don’t have white beans? You can use any other bean. You forgot to soak the beans? That’s ok, canned are perfectly fine. Love garlic? Add more! Like it spicy? Add a pinch of chili flakes. You’re a vegetarian? Don’t add the meat and use veggie broth. Don’t have zucchini? Leave it out. Have other veggies you’d like to use up? Throw them in!
Everyone loves minestrone soup. It is sure to become a favourite in your household!
-1 cup dried cannellini beans or white navy beans (Or 1 can, see note)
-2-3 tbsp olive oil
-4 sausages, casings removed
-1 onion, chopped
-1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
-1 large celery stalk, chopped
-Salt and pepper, to taste
-2-3 cloves garlic
-1 28 oz can tomatoes
-4 cups good quality chicken broth (I use homemade if I can)
-4 cups water
-4-5 sprigs of fresh herbs (eg. thyme and rosemary), tied with kitchen twine if desired for easy removal
-1 large or 2-3 small parmesan rinds
-1 cup chopped zucchini or other soft veggies (see note)
-1 cup small dried pasta (wheat or non-wheat, your choice)
-Rinse beans in a strainer. Pour into a bowl and add enough water to cover a couple of inches above the beans. Allow to soak for 6-8 hours, or overnight. Drain and rinse.
-In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add sausages and using your stirring utensil, break into large chunks. Allow the meat to brown slightly (it helps if you don’t move it around too much). Remove sausage using a slotted spoon.
-Add onion, carrot and celery, and a couple more tbsp oil if the pan is dry. Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and cook until veggies are softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds.
-Add tomatoes, and break into pieces with your stirring utensil if they are not already crushed. Scrape the bottom of the pan to ensure all the flavour stuck to the bottom of the pot goes into the liquid. Add broth, water, herbs and parmesan rind, and give it a good stir. Add beans (unless using canned; see note) and cooked sausage, stir. Simmer until the beans are barely tender, about an hour to an hour and 20 minutes depending on the size of your beans.
-Add zucchini and pasta and cook for about 10 minutes, until pasta is soft. Add more salt and pepper, to taste, and stir.
-Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil, grated parmesan cheese, a sprinkle of fresh herbs and a dash of hot sauce, if desired.
-If using canned beans, drain, rinse and add to soup at same time as pasta and zucchini, because they are already cooked.
-If adding veggies at the end, make sure they are chopped pretty small. Examples of other veggies that work well: green beans, finely shredded cabbage/kale/spinach. You can definitely use veggies that take more time to cook, such as potatoes or squash, but make sure you give them at least 30 minutes to cook.
-The pasta, beans and veggies will continue to absorb liquid as the soup is stored. I often add extra broth or water when reheating.