The definition of minestrone is “big soup.” It is a hearty vegetable soup and how it’s made varies from region to region in Italy. It varies mainly because of the availability of vegetables from each region. This is my favorite combination, but really any vegetable can be added. I actually made it in the slow cooker the other day just to see how it would come out. I find that it’s best to saute the onions and garlic first, so it really doesn’t matter which pot you’re going to make it in. The pot on the stove needs to be watched, and either way, you will be using 2 pots. I did the saute on the stove top and then I put it all in the slow cooker on low for 6 hours. I also added ditalini, which I cooked and then added right before serving so it was al dente and not over cooked. I will explain the steps in the directions. This is very tasty and very healthy.
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 small (or 1 large) potato, cubed (You can also add more potatoes if you like.)
1 28 oz. can chopped tomatoes with the juice (I used the chef’s cut)
3 cups broth (can be vegetable or chicken)
1 cup shredded cabbage, kale, or spinach (this time I used kale)
1 cup cooked beans, cannellini or any other white bean (I used a 15 oz. can of drained and rinsed white northern beans, because I didn’t have time to soak the beans overnight. Use whichever you’d like.)
1/2 cup small pasta (I used ditalini. You can also use spaghetti broken into small pieces.)
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated parmesan cheese if you’d like when you serve
Saute the garlic and onions in the olive oil. Use a heavy large pot (Le Creuset.) When onions are golden and translucent, add the carrots, celery and potatoes, and toss for a few minutes just to coat the vegetables with the oil.
If you are using the slow cooker, as I did, just put everything into slow cooker at this point. Add the tomatoes, beans and the broth. I cooked on low for 6 hours, but it can cook up to 8 hours. You can also cook on high for 3 – 4 hours.
About 1/2 hour before you want to serve soup, add the spinach, kale, or cabbage. I had 2 small zucchini in the house and I put them in when I added the cabbage. I then prepare the pasta and put it in each bowl before serving. (I did this because I didn’t want to freeze the soup with the pasta in it. I find that pasta gets very mushy when you freeze it.) Next, remove bay leaves, and season to taste, with salt and pepper.
*this soup freezes beautifully, I just cook up more pasta for it while I reheat the soup when I serve it again
Sprinkle with cheese as you serve it.
* if you are cooking in a pot on the stove, cook uncovered for about an hour on a low simmer. The vegetables should be tender and the soup thick. You may or may not need to add more liquid (I find 3 cups usually does it.)
* if you like you can add pasta right to the soup on the stove top method. I just find that the pasta gets very soft, so I prefer doing it separately.