What’s Cooking Wednesday: Easy, Delicious Minestrone

Lest you think we’re always making everything from scratch around here, I’m going to clue you in on one of our colder weather staples–minestrone.

Whether you say it with or without that final “eh” (never an “ee” sound please), its etymological origin is the Italian word for soup, minestra, with the augmentative suffix “one” denoting larger or grander, and it’s povera cucina (peasant or poor people’s cuisine) at its finest.

Minestrone, basically vegetable soup with pasta, is eaten all throughout Italy and there are an uncountable number of recipes for it–some with meat, some without, some with more tomatoes, etc. The idea is to use whatever vegetables are in season and the stock of your choice.

Let me end the mystery now and tell you that I use a frozen minestrone vegetable mix and bouillon cubes. Sure I (and you) could make this from scratch, but it’s just so darn good this way–and so easy too–that I often just make it like this, and I thought you might enjoy a truly simple recipe as well.

Now let me caution you by saying that I’m not sure frozen vegetable mixes are created equal everywhere. The one that I buy is seasoned–there’s parsley, garlic, and basil listed in the ingredients–so you may need to add more seasoning than what I list here. Feel free to experiment.

Also, I like my minestronea bit more tomato-ey than the recipe here, but since P doesn’t, I’m giving you the way I make it most of the time. If I make this soup just for me (and sometimes I’ll make two small pots, one for each of us), I add some tomato sauce (just crushed tomatoes) after the broth. You could add fresh tomatoes, but around here in the winter, the best flavor would come from sauce.

Minestrone

minestrone

3 1/2 cups water
2 bouillon cubes (adjust for your taste)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped finely
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 bag of frozen vegetables

Small soup pasta

Heat pot of water on high, and when boiling or near boiling, add bouillon cubes to dissolve, making what we’ll now call broth.

Meanwhile, in large soup pot, heat olive oil on medium and then add onion and garlic and let cook until tender, nearly brown. At this point, your broth should be ready, so pour that into the larger pot with the garlic and onions.

Add vegetables (still frozen and in proportion to the water you’re using) and let cook for about 20 minutes to a half hour, testing vegetables to make sure they’re done before serving.

For the pasta, the only rule is to use something small; we use lumachine, pictured above, which are like little elbow macaroni. Boil pasta separately in salted water and then put a small amount of pasta in each serving bowl and add soup. This method ensures that you can then store leftover soup without mushy pasta soaking up the broth.

Serve immediately with some crusty Italian bread. Note that P (and probably many Italians) would never eat bread with this as there’s already pasta in it. Duh. I, on the other hand, always ate soup with bread growing up and continue to do so.

No excuses on not trying this one. It really couldn’t get much easier–or tastier.

Buon appetito!

39 Beans of Wisdom to “What’s Cooking Wednesday: Easy, Delicious Minestrone”
  1. Jeff Gromen
    10.10.2007

    I LOVE minestrone! It’s so nice to be in “soup season” again! Several places have local vegetables already chopped up ready for cooking. I’m surprised you don’t go that route.
    I’m with P and a little anti-tomato. Whatever you do don’t tell the Italians that I put crackers in my minestrone!

  2. sognatrice
    10.10.2007

    Jeff, hah, I love crackers in soup too! Especially chicken noodle and the like, but yes, let’s keep that quiet 😉

    If I have some extra vegetables lying around, I’d certainly chop them up for soup, but it just usually happens that when we have them, we use them for other things (often with pasta); just end up being easier when there’s a minestrone craving to grab a bag of frozen veggies–I even usually keep a bag in the freezer for last minute meals.

    Part of the issue, actually, is getting enough different kinds of vegetables for a great soup on the spur of the moment–there’s only a small grocery store up in the village, so in order to get carrots, potatoes, peas, celery, etc., all at once (and we know how quickly some of that stuff goes bad!), I’d more often than not have to head down to the Marina. Not a problem if I was planning to go there anyway as an excursion, but at 11.30 a.m. when lunch is creeping up on me, I get lazy 😉

  3. Giulia
    10.10.2007

    I will admit, I didn’t read a word of what you posted… just looked straight at the photo. Between you and Ms. Adventure’s photos, I have become an adict of both of your’s food porn. I am so ashamed… please don’t feel less of me that I went staright to the photo. I…can’t…help…it! 🙂
    P.S. I will go back and read eventually. 😉

  4. KC
    10.10.2007

    I have a feeling that around here it’s pronounced with a final “uh.” But that doesn’t matter, it’s delicious either way! What a great recipe now that the weather is changing.

    I’m also a bit cafoncella with the crackers. I even put them in tortellini al brodo (but only when there are no Italians looking!)

  5. sognatrice
    10.10.2007

    Giulia, hey, everyone is free to take from my posts whatever they like and/or need…there will be no quiz at the end of the blog 😉

    KC, crackers even with tortellini? You’ve got me beat there 😉

    I added the bit about the pronunciation because I remember discussions in America as to whether it’s “minestronee” or “minestron” (long “o” e basta). Turns out neither is technically correct, but whatever…still delicious 😉

  6. ChristinaG
    10.10.2007

    This looks great. I’m definitely going to try this. I’m just wondering if I have some little pasta in my pantry now, then I can have this for lunch today! (And I need crackers or bread with my soups too!)

  7. KC
    10.10.2007

    Sognatrice, the bit about the pronunciation brought back memories about how in the Italian-American neighborhood I grew up in, it was always either minestron-ee or minestron. The non-Italians (including my family) used the first pronunciation, the Italians used the second one. And I was always confused.

  8. sognatrice
    10.10.2007

    Christina, during soup season, I’ve learned to *always* have small pasta in the house–great last minute meal 🙂

    KC, see I knew I wasn’t making that up! And I think you’re right about the split between Italians and non-Italians…hmm….

  9. My Melange
    10.10.2007

    Yum! And I agree with you…I like mine a bit more tomatoe *e* too! Funny thing…I just picked up a recipe for minestrone recently…but I think I will give yours a shot first 😉 PS another think I love about fall…homemade soup. Hmm…I feel a post on Ribollita coming on…

  10. bella
    10.10.2007

    I’ve never made minestrone, but today it’s raining and cold..perfect soup weather. But, ya see, I love meat. I would have to throw in some meat and screw up the whole recipe. Gah!!! LOL.

  11. sognatrice
    10.10.2007

    Robin, mmm, I sure hope your feeling is right! 🙂

    Bella, that won’t ruin it at all–I *love* beef vegetable soup (especially when my mom makes it nice and tomatoey 🙂

  12. Rob
    10.10.2007

    I enjoy minestrone, and cream of tomato soup (with a handful of grated cheese popped into the bowl before the soup is ladled in).

    The one good thing about winter is that you get to enjoy soup more often.

    The way I make minestrone is whatever veg is on hand, plus sweet fennel sausages, skins removed, fried and chopped into the soup along with those nice mini stuffed tortelloni – very substantial soup at that point but delicious!

  13. SUEB0B
    10.10.2007

    Thank you for solving my age old question about storing soup with pasta in it! That makes perfect sense.

  14. sognatrice
    10.10.2007

    Rob, yum! That sounds absolutely fabulous–and yes, “hearty” comes to mind 🙂

    Sueb0b, my pleasure! That info is right out of my memory bank of “Italian grandmother’s wisdom” 🙂

  15. stefanie
    10.10.2007

    Yum. It’s about 45 degrees here this morning (as opposed to the nearly 90 it was just a couple days ago), so that soup looks particularly awesome on this chilly morning.

  16. Confessions of Cleopantha
    10.10.2007

    Yum, minestrone is filed under comfort food for me. That looks so delicious.

  17. Karina
    10.10.2007

    OOOH, YUM…I love minestrone, and love that now I know an easy recipe to make it. I will definitely be trying this one out…it’s kind of rainy and dreary here this week…that’s perfect soup weather!

  18. Sara
    10.10.2007

    yummy yummy yummy yummy yummy

    This is one of my favorite foods ever. I love to dunk the local rosemary garlic sourdough into it.

    That bowl looks so good. I want to dive right into the picture with my mouth open — wearing a bib, of course; don’t want to stain the pastel green T-shirt I’m wearing, though it does always seem that I’m wearing pastels when I eat tomato-based foods. This has caused me to become a genius at stain removal.

    I made turkey stew the other day by searing and then simmering until cooked through three turkey breasts in olive oil with lots of garlic and liberal pinches of sage, rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, marjoram — the usual suspects — with three large chopped tomatoes. Then I threw in corn and green beans, served it over couscous with a side salad and called it dinner.

    Yum. Soupy tomatoey goodness. Just like minestrone, only different. (Variations on a theme, you know.)

    Because only summer tomatoes are delicious, because winter tomatoes are picked green and grown far away, often in hothouses, I usually make a practice of buying too many during the summer and throwing the extras, which are any which start to go soft but not rotten or moldy before I can use them, into plastic bags and putting them in the freezer whole. In winter, I throw them whole into soups and stews, and as they defrost, they dissolve into sauce. This way I get the flavor of summer in cozy winter foods.

  19. sognatrice
    10.10.2007

    Stefanie, well I’m glad to hear you’re out of the 90s. In Minnesota. In October. Wow.

    Cleopantha, comfort food ’tis!

    Karina, definitely easy…and so little fat too 🙂

    Sara, that turkey tomato stew sounds so lovely…an excellent variation on a theme.

    Frozen tomatoes are a great way to recreate summer glory–unfortunately, freezer space is at a real minimum around here, and it’s usually filled with meat. Once we move house, though, we’ll have a stand alone freezer…and then I’ll be like a little squirrel putting *everything* away for the winter 🙂

  20. flutter
    10.10.2007

    Oh Clay will be so happy!

  21. Beckie
    10.10.2007

    Yum! I have been hungry for Minestrone – this is great!

  22. Geggie
    10.10.2007

    I’m loving your blog, and that bowl of soup. It’s not cool enough here for soup, but minestrone is always in the soup pot rotation.

  23. Italian Woman
    10.10.2007

    What a great idea. I love this because I can use things that I always have in my house.
    P.S. I like when you point out our pronunciation mistakes. I get so sloppy here in the U.S.

  24. Caffienated Cowgirl
    10.10.2007

    I love soups like that…and often do them in the fall and winter. Minestrone being one of my all time favorites!

  25. sognatrice
    10.10.2007

    Flutter, and I’m happy too!

    Beckie, start cooking!

    Geggie, I’m pushing it a bit with the soup right now too, but I just can’t wait any longer 😉

    Italian Woman, I think this recipe is a great one to take short cuts in–I feel a little like Rachael Ray right now encouraging time savers, but it works! Also on the pronunciation, don’t be so hard on yourself–it’s all those other Italian-Americans’ faults!

    Cowgirl, same here; I’ve grown to like soup more and more with each passing year 🙂

  26. Maryann@FindingLaDolceVita
    10.10.2007

    Love minestrone (min e strone) haha

  27. Julia
    10.11.2007

    Mm, my mamma used to make a cross between a passato di verdure and minestrone when I was a little girl, simply because I didn’t like the vegetables the way they looked. 😉

    Now that I’m an adult, I definitely prefer both of those minestras separately, either a passato, OR a minestrone. Your photo looks really good and yummy, and I already had dinner this evening!

  28. Anali
    10.11.2007

    I love minestrone too and I have no problem with the frozen vegetables. : )

  29. sognatrice
    10.11.2007

    Maryann, you have good taste 😉

    Julia, I like it both ways too–and sometimes I just have to have that passato 😉

    Anali, yeah! Let’s hear it for frozen veggies!

  30. Jen of A2eatwrite
    10.11.2007

    I am such a minestrone fan! I make borsch all summer (the hot vegetable kind that you can freeze and then taste summer in the dead of winter) and then make minestrone all winter. Lovely recipe! I always look forward to Wednesdays here, even if I get to them late. 😉

  31. sognatrice
    10.11.2007

    Jen, that’s the great thing about a blog–all the posts are still here even if you miss the day they come out 😉 Glad you stop by whenever you happen to get here!

  32. Figs Olives Wine
    10.11.2007

    We posted minestrone on the same day! I love it! I must try yours – my version was northern. I love, love, love these Wednesday posts.

  33. sognatrice
    10.11.2007

    Amanda, well you know what they say about great minds….

  34. Sharon
    10.12.2007

    I love the phrase *SOUP POT ROTATION*. I am gonna steal this and use it in my house. Soup is our favorite ..winter, summer all year.

    If you thin slice yesterdays bread and put it under the broiler with just a bit of olive oil it will, 1) use up yesterday’s bread
    2) taste so good with your soup!
    (You guys always eat so good!)
    Sharon

  35. Fango
    10.12.2007

    To add to the resounding echoes, thanks for the recipe. Look forward to trying it out now that we’re moving into cooler days and chilly nights. Soon they could be chili nights… bwa bwa bwa bwaaa. Ouch. I made a good potato stew the other night with some sausage, chard, cannelini, the kitchen sink – it’s hard to go wrong, ergo easy for neophytes like me to make something tasty. Keep up the good work.

  36. sognatrice
    10.15.2007

    Sharon, another soup lover! Yeah! Actually I like my bread untoasted for soup. I’m weird like that…but give me some of that toasted bread brushed with olive oil pretty much any other time, and I’m all over it 😉

    Fango, you’ve pinpointed a big reason why I love making soup 🙂

  37. Emily
    10.15.2007

    That IS easy. I love soup and it’s getting colder and colder over here so I just might be making this very soon! 🙂

  38. Ann
    10.20.2007

    Ok, you inspired me, I’ll admit. My first pot of soup for fall. Anything I could find in the fridge, plus basil & parsley from my garden. And of course, the things I always use — crushed red pepper, the remains of the tomatoes from my garden, a cheese rind I had in the freezer, orzo — MAJOR YUM. Thanks for the inspiration.

  39. sognatrice
    10.21.2007

    Emily, easy is *always* good 🙂

    Ann, that’s what I love about soup…a nearly instant meal from whatever you have around in your fridge/in the cupboards. Glad to inspire 🙂

Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time. 

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