As a kid, Progresso Minestrone was one of my favorite soups. My mom liked the chicken noodle and tomato soups but I preferred the minestrone for its tomato base, beans, veggies, and little pasta tubetti.
Although Progresso is no longer at the top of my list, I do still love minestrone soup. It's hearty and satisfying yet still light and fresh. It's also a great way to use up a bunch of veggies if you happen to have a lot on hand, as I did as a result of our month-long EatWell Farm CSA produce box experiment -- this is definitely the first time I've ever had two large cabbages in my fridge :)
In addition to having more cabbage than you could shake a pepper mill at, I also had leeks, potatoes, celery, carrots, and chard lying around and practically begging to be made into minestrone soup. I also happened to have two pieces of parmesan cheese rind that I'd been holding on to for the past few months for just this purpose. So I got out the big soup pot and cooked up a mess of minestrone.
I really recommend adding the fresh pesto. It's very easy and quick to make if you have a food processor of any sort and it gives the soup a delightful zip of flavor that makes me think of summertime.
The recipe I used calls for a soffritto, a mix of finely chopped onion, celery and carrot that you sautee first to create a flavor base for the soup - you then add more of each vegetable (in bigger pieces) a little later in the cooking process.
However, I have also made minestrone without doing an intentional soffritto (I do cook the onion, celery and carrot first but I don't cut them up all tiny and I don't add more later) and the result was delicious so it's really up to you.
* 1 bunch Swiss chard (or kale), cleaned, ribs removed and chopped, leaves chopped
* 1 can pureed tomatoes (or diced tomatoes with juice)
* 1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
* 2 tbsps olive oil
* 1 large onion - very finely chopped* 1 large leek, cleaned and sliced into rounds (white part only)
* 4 cloves garlic, minced
* 3 medium carrots, peeled - 1 very finely chopped, the other two cut into slices or diced
* 3 ribs of celery, cleaned - 1 rib very finely chopped, the other two sliced or diced
* 1/4 head green cabbage, cored and very thinly sliced
* 2 medium sized red potatoes, cleaned and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
* 3- to 4-inch parmesan cheese rind (just hold on to the rinds when you use up a hunk of parmesan - put them in a ziplock in the fridge)
* 1/2 cup dry white wine
* 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
* 1/2 cup freshly shredded parmesan
* 2 bay leaves
* 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
* 2 tbsps chopped flat leaf parsley
* 1 tsp dried oregano
* Dried red pepper flakes to taste
* Salt to taste
* Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Make the soffritto: Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Stirring often, sautee the onions, carrots, celery and bay leaf until the vegetables are soft, about 10-15 minutes.
2. Add the chopped leek and the garlic and cook until soft and fragrant, about 4 minutes.
3. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the chopped celery, carrots, potatoes, green beans, and chard stems. Cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes.
4. Stir in the tomatoes, chard leaves, cabbage, white wine, stock, cheese rind, parsley, oregano, and red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer.
5. Cover and cook for 25-30 minutes or until all vegetables are soft and flavors have blended. About 15 minutes in, add the beans and stir to incorporate. While it's cooking, make the pesto (see below).
6. Remove parmesan rind and bay leaves. Serve hot and top with shredded parmesan and a dollop of fresh basil pesto. Goes nicely with a loaf of crusty bread and butter or olive oil and a green salad.
Fresh Basil Pesto
* 2 cups (packed) fresh basil leaves, washed and dried thoroughly
* 1-2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped (if you are really into garlic, you can use more than one clove)
* 1/4 cup pinenuts
* 1/4 cup parmesan or romano cheese, grated (this is optional)
* 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
* Sea salt to taste
* Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1. Place the basil leaves, pinenuts, garlic and cheese in the bowl of a cuisinart or other food processor and add the salt and pepper.
2. Turn the food processor on and add the olive oil in a steady stream. Blend/process until smooth or to desired consistency.
3. Taste the pesto and adjust the salt and pepper as needed.
4. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week or in the freezer for several months. The top of the pesto will turn brown as it oxidizes but it is still good and if you dig down below the top, the rest should still be that lovely brilliant green.
** Although I'd recommend basil pesto as a topping for this soup, other greens also work well for pesto -- arugala and walnut is a very tasty combination. I also had a delightful cilantro and mint pesto on an asian pasta salad once. So feel free to play around.