Monday, July 21, 2014

Super Easy Recipes: "Kitchen Sink" Minestrone

When I was 12, I decided I wanted to be vegetarian.  That lasted until I was about 18, and during that time, I did much of my own cooking.  One particular cookbook, The Teen's Vegetarian Cookbook, was pretty much my cooking bible.  I still have my very dog-eared copy sitting in my kitchen and occasionally browse it for inspiration.

Anyway, this minestrone soup recipe is adapted from the one in that book.  This was one of the very first meals I ever learned to cook for myself, and it's still one of the "go-to" meals in my cooking rotation.

What I love about this soup recipe: It's versatile, it's easy, it's filling, and it's cheap.  It will never be exactly the same twice, but you can make it with anything you have in the kitchen and it will turn out will.  Here's what you need to make this soup happen:

Kitchen Sink Minestrone Recipe

  • Carrot, celery, onion and garlic (or whatever you prefer in your mirepoix
  • A large can of crushed tomatoes 
  • A cup or so of stock (or bullion) 
  • A small can of tomato sauce 
  • About a cup each of frozen mixed veggies, pasta, and beans
  • Season with salt, pepper, oregano, thyme and basil 
Saute together your mirepoix until softened, then add in your stock, tomato products, and about six cups of water.  You can use whole peeled tomatoes or diced tomatoes instead of crushed if you want -- whatever tomato product is on sale, use that one.

For the veggies, I always just make things easy and add whatever frozen veg I have on hand.  You can certainly use fresh instead.  This soup is a great way to use up some of your excess harvest.

Add about a cup of dried pasta.  I like shells, but elbow macaroni or any other smallish shape would work just great.  Just dump the dry pasta right in the soup and let it plump up.

Add your beans.  Canned is fine.  Dried beans that have been cooked are fine.  Frozen are fine.  Whatever you're comfortable with and have on hand.  I like navy beans, garbanzo beans or kidney beans for this.  But feel free to experiment.

When you season, don't be scared to put in a lot of herb.  If you happen to have fresh herbs from your garden, awesome.  If not, dump in some dried or whatever else you have on hand.  If you don't like having floating herbs in your soup, gather them up into a tea ball or something before dropping them in.  Taste as you go to see if you need to adjust. 

Boom.  That's it.  You're done.

You could probably do this in the crockpot, too, if you waited til the end to add the pasta.  I've never tried it -- this whole thing comes together in less than 30 minutes, and you can leave it gently simmering for as long as you need to after that while the flavors meld and you clean your kitchen, play a round of League of Legends, throw a stick for your dog, have a cigarette, whatever it is you do in your free time.

If you don't think you're any good at cooking or don't know where to start...start with this recipe.  It will open doors to whole new worlds for you!

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