Via gchat, SS and I discussed the limitations of canned soup. Well, one limitation: that it’s spiked to the gills with sodium but strangely flavorless. “I just want to keep dumping salt in,” SS wrote, “but I don’t because it’s already hella salty, so then I force myself to eat bland soup.” And that, folks, sums it up.
Making soup from scratch isn’t difficult, just time consuming. If you use canned beans, it’s not that time consuming — certainly not in the geologic scheme of things. The bit of effort you invest will yield stellar results.
Aida Mollenkamp recently published a Minestrone recipe via Chow. Minestrone, I thought, I haven’t had that in ages. Just like that, the craving set in. Campbell’s minestrone — the only kind I knew — was one of my childhood favorites. I loved the uniform cubes of potato, the strangely symmetrical green beans, and the rich, tomatoey broth. I was gonna own this recipe.
My version deviates from Mollenkamp’s. As stated, I used canned beans. I also omitted a few things (frozen peas, zucchini) and added others (random chickpeas, Manchego rind, cilantro). Though a bit less salty than I’d have preferred — HA! — my soup was pretty spot on.
Do yourself a favor: set aside an evening to make a big pot of this Minestrone. Put half in the fridge and half in the freezer, and you won’t have to reach for a weird microwaveable cup of Chicken and Stars for your weekday lunch.
Garky’s Minestrone (adapted from Aida Mollenkamp’s recipe)
- Three tablespoons butter
- Two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- One smallish yellow onion, minced
- Four cloves of garlic, chopped finely
- Salt and pepper
- One huge carrot, cut into small pieces
- Two celery ribs, cut into small pieces
- One bigass Russet potato, scrubbed and cut into uniform cubes
- Two Bay leaves
- One 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes (juice and all)
- Four cups of low-sodium chicken (or vegetable) broth
- Parmesan or Manchego rind (optional, but recommended)
- Eight ounces fresh green beans, cut into small pieces
- About 1 cup of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- One can of cannellini beans (liquid reserved)
- About 1.5 cups of water
- About 1.5 cups small pasta (I used orichette, but use what suits your fancy)
- One-quarter bunch cilantro, chopped
- Heat butter and oil in a soup pot over a medium flame. When the butter is mostly melted, add your garlic and onions. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent. Add hefty shakes of salt and pepper.
- Once your onions are cooked, add your carrots, celery, potato, and Bay leaves. Mix to combine with onion/garlic mixture, and cook until celery is soft. Again, add salt and pepper (trust me on this one).
- Add your diced tomatoes, liquid and all. The original recipe recommended simmering until most of the liquid had evaporated, but I didn’t follow this directive — I knew I’d need that liquid.
- Add your broth and cheese rind. Simmer for a bit.
- Now, add your green beans, your chickpeas, and your cannellini beans (and the bean juice). If your soup looks more like stew, add water. It’s OK to eyeball the amount of water — I added more toward the end of the process, right before I added the pasta.
- Now is a good time to add your cilantro. Cilantro doesn’t belong in Minestrone, you say? Rubbish! (The store I went to was out of Italian parsley, so I subbed this in. Worked great.)
- This step is important: ten minutes before you remove your soup from the heat, add your pasta. Don’t add it too early, lest it become overcooked. I let my pasta cook for about eight minutes before moving the pot to an unused burner.
- Allow soup to cool, and enjoy!
One note: the next time around, I’ll add a bit more water (or broth). Though the soup’s consistency was dead-on right after I pulled it from the flame, the pasta absorbed some of the liquid and my soup is a little chunky as a result. This doesn’t bother me — I’m a lover of chunky soups — but it’s a good thing to bear in mind.