I love to cook not-written-in-stone recipes. Add a bit of this, a scrap of that, taste as you go, repeat.
For the batch of minestrone soup pictured in this post, I used celery, carrots, a bell pepper and potatoes that I had on hand and bought some parsnips and a turnip to reach the three pounds of mixed vegetables I wanted. In summer, I might add green beans, corn and fresh basil. Whatever vegetables you include, you will, however, want to add tomatoes. This is after all an Italian dish. This time, I used a jar of my roasted tomatoes that I prep in the summer, freeze and eat all winter. If you use fresh tomatoes, ideally, you would blanch, peel and seed them. I do this step only occasionally, I have to admit.
- Use vegetables you have on hand and that need to be eaten soon
- Add leftover cooked pasta or rice
- If you eat cheese and meat, toss in parmesan rinds or bones to add flavor, or any bits of leftover cooked meat
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- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 pound tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup dried borlotti, cannellini or pinto beans, soaked 8 hours
- 8 cups water
- 1 parmesan rind (optional)
- 1-2 pork bones (optional)
- 3 pounds vegetables such as carrots, leeks, celery, cabbage, cauliflower, parsnips, turnips, bell peppers, squash, pumpkin, potatoes, chopped
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/2 tsp pepper or to taste
- Heat olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Saute onions and garlic for 5-10 minutes, until onions are translucent.
- Add the oregano, thyme and bay leaf and stir for one minute.
- Stir in tomatoes and break them with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until broken down.
- Add the soaked beans, water and, if using, parmesan rind and pork bones. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until beans are tender, about an hour.
- Add the vegetables, salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
In a perfect world, you would blanch, peel and seed the fresh tomatoes. I do this only occasionally.
For this post I used one 16-ounce jar of my frozen roasted tomatoes (since I wrote this in winter when tomatoes are out of season). In summer, I roast tomatoes as follows: cut small tomatoes into halves or quarters, arrange them on a cookie sheet and roast at 275°F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until they are softened and sweet. Allow them to cool, pack them into jars and freeze them. These replace the need for canned tomatoes.