A hearty bowl of minestrone soup is the perfect way to enjoy seasonally abundant vegetables from your own garden, your CSA, the local farmers’ market or the grocer.
Before there was Rome, there was minestrone soup, and although some may insist that true minestrone must have this or that, the spirit of this dish lies in taking advantage of whatever vegetables are on hand. Add pasta or not, rice or not, and although contemporary versions of minestrone usually feature a bean broth, some versions use vegetable or even meat broth. Chunk up some halibut, striped bass or loup de mer (European seabass), toss it in and you’ve got a hearty fish stew. Here’s how we made our minestrone – courtesy of the abundance of vegetables we have now that we are receiving weekly deliveries to our Arctic home from Full Circle Farm. A good smoked sea salt works beautifully in this soup. A dollop of sherry is nice, too.
Ingredients (feel free to change quantities and freely substitute):
- olive oil
- 2 1/2 pounds tomatoes, sliced
- 1/2 large sweet onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- two sunburst squash, diced (zucchini or summer squash also work well)
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced
- 1 cup (1 ear) sweet corn
- 1 1/2 cups green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
- several leaves of basil, cut into thin ribbons chiffonade style. (You can do this by rolling the leaves cigar style, then slicing them.)
- 1 bunch spinach, chopped coarse
- 2 cups pinto beans (or other beans), cooked till they’re tender. Separate from broth and save the broth.
- sea salt
- black pepper
- Italian herbs
- Start by cooking the beans in a pot till they are soft. Save the broth, as it will be the base of the soup. Set aside beans and broth.
- Preheat oven to 400° F.
- Place olive oil and tomatoes in a large pot over medium heat stirring occasionally till the tomatoes are falling apart. Add onions and green beans and cook till they just begin to soften. Add garlic and squash, followed by parsley and basil. (You will add the beans, spinach and corn later.)
- Stir the broth and pour into the pot so that the vegetables are just covered. Add herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil.
- As soon as the broth begins to boil, place the pot into the preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove pot from oven. Add beans, spinach and corn. Give the soup a taste and add seasonings as necessary. Return to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven, stir in a good olive oil for added flavor and give it a final taste. Let soup rest with lid on for about 10 minutes.
- Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and a baguette of French bread or a crunchy bolillo.