Ok, here in the Northeast, it's ridiculously freezing! As I'm sitting here and writing this, I'm wearing a sweater, a fleece, my winter jacket, UGG boots--you'd think I had taken the laptop outside, but no! It's just seriously freezing in the part of our house where my computer is and layering is an absolute necessity! To combat the chill we've been drinking lots of hot drinks and reveling in this nourishing and delicious and most importantly, hot Minestrone soup, generously shared with me by Jan, a family friend. It's chock full of all sorts of goodies and did I mention, hot? Definitely just the thing to chase away the winter chills!
In addition to being hot, which I think I may have mentioned before, this soup is a vegetarian paradise, filled with onions, carrots, beans, escarole, swiss chard, tomatoes, zucchini, celery...you name it, it's in there! And while it takes a bit of time to chop up everything, it isn't difficult, you only use one pot (less mess!) and you're rewarded at the end with a great big pot of soup that will carry you through for many days! Plus it's totally flexible too--hate swiss chard, use spinach instead--forgot to buy celery--add more carrots--you really can't go wrong here! It's that homey, throw-whatever-you-have-into-the-pot soup our grandmas used to make (except mine, I think!)
Filled with all those veggies, beans and even macaroni, a bowl of this soup makes a very satisfying lunch or dinner, especially if you accompany it with a piece of crusty bread. I love all the different flavors and textures and while it's a very full soup, it isn't filling somehow (if that makes any sense). A bowl of this leaves you energized, not weighed down, probably because it's full of healthy stuff! It's also wonderful topped with a little shredded or grated parmesan--the heat of the soup makes the cheese turn into melty gooey deliciousness!
However you serve it, I love coming home and knowing that a healthy steaming hot (there's that word again!) bowl of soup is just minutes away from being ready! Thanks Jan, for this wonderful recipe! Now if can you just do something about the weather...
Jan's Minestrone Soup
Makes a lot of servings! Don't be scared off by the long list of ingredients--use what you like or have and substitute or omit what you don't like or have. You really can't go wrong!
Prep Time: 45 minutes; Cook Time: About 1 hour
Enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a stockpot
1 extra large onion-chopped finely
2- 28oz. cans crushed tomatoes
56 oz. water (just fill the two empty tomato cans)
4 chopped carrots (I used a few more since I had less celery)
4 stalks celery, chopped (I only used 2)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or basil ( I used parsley-Jan says use can also use dried parsley in a pinch)
1 head escarole, chopped
6 stalks green swiss chard, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 package frozen green beans (you can use fresh if you like)
1 bag frozen peas (you can use fresh)
1- 15 oz. can each pinto beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans, lentils (drained and rinsed well)
1 cup macaroni, cooked ( I actually used a whole box and cooked it directly in the soup)
1 tablespoon oregano (I didn't use)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
freshly grated or shredded parmesan to use as a topping (optional)
1. Cover the bottom of a large stockpot with the olive oil and heat over a medium flame. Saute onions till soft and translucent and then add tomatoes, water, carrots, celery, basil and parsley. Cook until carrots and celery are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
2. Add the swiss chard, escarole and zucchini and cook for another 7-10 minutes until zucchini is tender. Then add the green beans, peas, pinto beans, lima beans, garbanzo beans, lentils, oregano, salt and pepper and simmer for about 15 minutes. Then you can either add the cooked macaroni and heat it for a few minutes or add uncooked pasta and cook the soup for another 10 minutes or so, until the pasta is done.
3. Serve immediately. Top with grated or shredded parmesan, if desired.
4. Soup keeps in refrigerator in an airtight container for at least 1 week. When reheating, you may need to add some water to thin it out, especially if you've cooked the pasta in the soup as it absorbs a lot of the liquid. Jan also says that this soup freezes well.
Note: Recipe adapted from Jan, a close family friend