Lest you think we’re always making everything from scratch around here, I’m going to clue you in on one of our colder weather staples--minestrone.
Whether you say it with or without that final "eh" (never an "ee" sound please), its etymological origin is the Italian word for soup--minestra--with the augmentative suffix "one" denoting larger or grander, and it's povera cucina (peasant or poor people's cuisine) at its finest.
Minestrone, basically vegetable soup with pasta, is eaten all throughout Italy and there are an uncountable number of recipes for it--some with meat, some without, some with more tomatoes, etc. The idea is to use whatever vegetables are in season and the stock of your choice.
Let me end the mystery now and tell you that I use a frozen minestrone vegetable mix and bouillon cubes. Sure I (and you) could make this from scratch, but it’s just so darn good this way--and so easy too--that I often just make it like this, and I thought you might enjoy a truly simple recipe as well.
Now let me caution you by saying that I’m not sure frozen vegetable mixes are created equal everywhere. The one that I buy is seasoned--there’s parsley, garlic, and basil listed in the ingredients--so you may need to add more seasoning than what I list here. Feel free to experiment.
Also, I like my minestrone a bit more tomato-ey than the recipe here, but since P doesn’t, I’m giving you the way I make it most of the time. If I make this soup just for me (and sometimes I'll make two small pots, one for each of us), I add some tomato sauce (just crushed tomatoes) after the broth. You could add fresh tomatoes, but around here in the winter, the best flavor would come from sauce.
3 1/2 cups water
2 bouillon cubes (adjust for your taste)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped finely
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 bag of frozen vegetables
Small soup pasta
Heat pot of water on high, and when boiling or near boiling, add bouillon cubes to dissolve, making what we’ll now call broth.
Meanwhile, in large soup pot, heat olive oil on medium and then add onion and garlic and let cook until tender, nearly brown. At this point, your broth should be ready, so pour that into the larger pot with the garlic and onions.
Add vegetables (still frozen and in proportion to the water you’re using) and let cook for about 20 minutes to a half hour, testing vegetables to make sure they’re done before serving.
For the pasta, the only rule is to use something small; we use lumachine, pictured above, which are like little elbow macaroni. Boil pasta separately in salted water and then put a small amount of pasta in each serving bowl and add soup. This method ensures that you can then store leftover soup without mushy pasta soaking up the broth.
Serve immediately with some crusty Italian bread. Note that P (and probably many Italians) would never eat bread with this as there's already pasta in it. Duh. I, on the other hand, always ate soup with bread growing up and continue to do so.
No excuses on not trying this one. It really couldn’t get much easier--or tastier.