Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Minestrone: Good Soup for Hard Times

The wonderful thing about minestrone is there are few guidelines. Everybody has a favorite version, but it's usually a variation on beans, onions, tomatoes, and carrots in a broth. Wikipedia says that in Italy, minestrone is is considered cucina povera (literally "poor kitchen"): food for poor folks. Maybe the wealthy can just throw away their extra carrots and leftover kale, but this is 2009, and I don't think there are any wealthy people left. So while you're waiting for your bailout, why not use up food you've already paid for and make minestrone?

I had some onions, celery, and carrots in my fridge that were holding up pretty well, but my potatoes were sprouting and the kale was a week old. Earlier in the week, I roasted several red peppers for another recipe and the extras were sitting charred and soggy in their plastic bag pleading, "Use us!" every time I opened the fridge. Since they weren't very pretty anymore, I pureed them and incorporated them into the broth.

Play with the recipe. If you don't have kale, no big deal. If you don't like garlic as much as I do, cut down the amount or omit it altogether. Toss in any vegetables or beans you want to get rid of, just keep an eye on the solids to liquids ratio and remember that the pasta will soak up some of the broth. I went pretty mellow on the seasoning so as not to overpower the flavor of the roasted peppers. You could use fresh herbs if you have them, but it's winter, so I don't.

Nuevo Great Depression Minestrone

2 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
2 small yukon gold potatoes, in bite-sized chunks
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
2 roasted red peppers (canned or home-made)
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 cups kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 15-oz. can chickpeas
3/4 cup elbow macaroni (whole wheat is good here)
salt and pepper to taste

In a blender or food processor, puree roasted red peppers and set aside.

In a soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Sautee onions, celery, and garlic for 5 minutes. Add carrots and herbs and cook for another 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, potatoes, pureed peppers, broth, water, and the bay leaf. Increase heat to medium high and simmer 10 minutes. Add chickpeas, kale, and macaroni, and simmer another ten minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper.

Serves 4.


  1. What a coincidence, we were both whipping up batches of minestrone on Tuesday, I used Quinoa-Corn pasta elbows in ours, which went very nicely. Haven't tried it with taters yet, sounds good.

  2. Thanks for the roasted pepper link, after going to shaws last week and seeing that my usual jars of roasted peppers in oil jumped from less than 3 dollars to over 5 dollars per jar, I knew it was time to start making them ourselves.

  3. I always roast my own peppers in the oven. It's much cheaper and it's easy: just cut them in half, take the seeds out, spray with olive oil, and bake at 400 for 45 minutes. And then they haven't been sitting in oil and preservatives for who months. I have never tried the stove top method, but blackening something looks fun.

  4. We have an electric stove so I did the slow broil method, they came out nice. I've got them in the fridge marinating in olive oil and fresh garlic as we speak. Also soaked and boiled a pot full of organic garbanzos today, along with putting together another big batch of minestrone. It's been a nice, productive, aromatic day here in the house.


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