Food Editor's Notes: This is a delicious, healthful, and hearty soup that is easy to make. Aside from a few basics that are identified with minestrone, such as tomatoes, beans, and Italian spices (basil, oregano, parsley), you can add whatever vegetables, pasta, and cooking liquids you have available in your refrigerator or pantry or whatever strikes your fancy. This is also a versatile dish for the kosher kitchen, as it can be made pareve to serve with any meal, with no loss of flavor. Sprinkling with parmigiana cheese just before serving is a dairy option, and using beef or chicken stock, or adding meat, makes a fleishig version that is even heartier and could easily serve as a main course. Julie makes her minestrone with beef stock and hamburger meat. Others use soup bones or pieces of chuck. The amount of liquids used is also discretionary, depending on whether you like your minestrone thicker or soupier. Add other vegetables if you wish, such as broccoli, cabbage, chick peas, or frozen corn or peas. The assortment of ingredients adds not just flavor, but texture and color. The recipe below is the version I made most recently and is totally pareve. I could have used vegetable broth for part of the liquid, but I used just water and some red wine. The flavor will of course vary with the specific ingredients used, but it is very hard to produce a less-than-delicious end-product. The soup will usually thicken more when refrigerated, but just add more water, stock, or tomato juice or sauce, if you'd like to thin it out. The recipe below can easily be doubled or tripled.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup carrots, diced or sliced
1/2 cup celery, diced or sliced
1/2 cup zucchini, unpeeled and diced
1/3 cup green pepper, diced
1 handful spinach, approx. 2 ounces (or chard or other greens)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)
1/2 cup red wine
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 cup water (or vegetable, chicken, or beef stock)
1 small can tomato sauce
1 15-ounce can kidney beans
1 15-ounce can great northern beans
1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/2 cup uncooked small ditalini pasta (or small shells, elbows, broken-up spaghetti)
Prepare all the vegetables first, so they will be ready to add as you proceed.
Heat the oil in a large pot and add the onions and garlic. Stir over medium heat until the onions start to soften (don't let the garlic burn), and add the carrots, celery, zucchini, green pepper, spinach, basil, oregano, and black pepper. Stir and cook for a few minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Add the wine, tomatoes, water or stock, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15-20 minutes, or longer for softer vegetables. While this is simmering, cook the pasta separately, rinse under cold water and drain, and set aside.
Add the beans to the soup pot, with or without the juices (I included them) and continue to cook until the vegetables are cooked through – they should still have a bit of a bite to them (you don't want to end up with mushy vegetables). Add the parsley, salt to taste, and the cooked pasta, and heat through.
Serve immediately or cool and refrigerate. This soup can also be frozen to have on hand for a quick and satisfying lunch or supper.
Yields 6-8 cups.