Okay, so the past couple years I've been on this soup kick. I LOVE good soup. BUT, I don't really love it from a can. I like it from places like Panera Bread or even my grocery store has some really good ones. SO, I have been trying to come up with some good soups for my freezer stash. What I love is a good hearty/flavorful soup that you know exactly what's in it. For this soup, I based it off of a recipe from the cookbook Italian Classics. What I love about it is that they got the recipes from testing multiple recipes out and it explains a lot of the process on why they ended where they did. After making this a couple times, I've personalized it to my own tastes. If you like minestrone, then you'll love this. The hardest part is the prep, since it's pretty much an Italian vegetable soup there's a lot of dicing and chopping. Enjoy!
2 T. bacon drippings (can substitute olive oil or butter)
2 T. butter
3 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced small
1 leek, sliced thin
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 zucchini diced
4 oz. green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
7 cups water
1 can whole peeled tomatoes
1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
3 cups spinach leaves, in thin strips
1/4 cup pesto
1 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup elbow macaroni or other small pasta (I liked the small shells best), cook according to package directions
1. First thing's first. just get all the prep work out of the way! This isn't exactly the recipe for chopping as you cook. Just be done with it because there are so many veggies, you'll end up forgetting one..maybe (I'm speaking from experience..ha!)
2. Okay, so this is a leek. If you're like me, I didn't know what one was for a long time. I sent DH to the store with a list and he comes home and says "I didn't even attempt to find the leek. I didn't even know what it was or what it looked like." ...So the next time we were at the store, I educated him...lol. It kinda reminds me of an onion, but not exactly. so you want to peel away the outer layer and cut the end off.
3. Next slice it up thing all the way to the green part. These can be a little gritty so I fill a bowl with water and pop the rings apart and let the dirt fall to the bottom, then drain.
4. Next Heat the olive oil, butter, and bacon drippings in a large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks carrots, zucchini, green beans, onion and celery. Saute until becoming tender.
5. Next, add the spinach and tomatoes. Saute a few more minutes. Then add water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes.
6. After the soup is finished simmering, add the pesto. I just used store bought pesto, since I haven't tried making homemade yet. Then add the cannellini beans and Parmesan cheese. I normally use only Parmesan but this time I had a Parmesan/Romano mix and it actually ended up being really stringy. I will probably not use that type next time. Simmer for 10 additional minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
7. Well, one last thing...the pasta. I used small shells the last time I made it, and this time I used elbow macaroni. I actually thing I prefer the smaller pasta. Also, I must've forgotten to write it down in my recipe book but DO NOT ADD PASTA DIRECTLY TO SOUP! What I would suggest is to cook the pasta till al dente (it's just cooked so it has a little bite to it, NOT MUSHY) in a separate pot. If you are going to eat it immediately then add the pasta right when you serve the soup so it doesn't absorb the liquid and become mush. If you plan to freeze it, then wait for the soup to cool. Add pasta to the freezer servings just before you put them in the freezer to preserve their texture.
I would love to hear any questions or suggestions you may have. What do YOU put in your minestrone? Do you even make it?
*A Storage Tip*
Once the soup has cooled, I usually pour two ladles full into plastic cups. Enough for a single serving. This batch made 11 servings. I then placed them into the freezer. Once frozen, I cut the cup and pull it away (they can be recycled if you are worried about landfills :) ) and placed in a couple gallon freezer bags. Then whenever I want a soup for lunch. I just toss one in a smaller Ziploc baggie and take it to work. I usually just microwave for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes.