Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Bowl Full of Comfort

I know I've said this before, but there's nothing better than a hot bowl of homemade soup when it's cold outside. Except maybe a soup that's easy to make. This minestrone is basically made by putting a bunch of ingredients in a pot and letting it cook. And it can be altered to include whatever vegetables you particularly like or happen to have on hand. The beans and pasta make minestrone hearty enough to be served as a meal and it's full of veggies, so it's good for you too. This soup would be perfect to make on a Sunday afternoon when you have some time to chop the veggies and then the leftovers can be used for healthy lunches during the week. Or prep the veggies ahead of time and use canned beans to reduce the cooking time. Either way, this soup definitely fits the bill for comfort food. If you want to make it completely vegetarian, use vegetable stock instead of chicken. And feel free to add carrots, leeks, squash or any other vegetables you like.

  • 1 c dry pinto beans (or 1 15 oz can)
  • 1 c dry Northern beans (or 1 15 oz can)
  • 6 canned plum tomatoes plus 3 T of the liquid (San Marzano tomatoes are good)
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 3 zucchini
  • 2 potatoes, peeled
  • 1 small bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1 medium red or yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 c frozen peas
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 4-6 c low-sodium chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 lb small pasta shells
Soak the beans overnight in cold water if using dry.
Drain the beans and add them to a large soup pot.
Cut up all of the vegetables into approximately the same size pieces: 1/2 dice for celery, zucchini, potatoes and tomatoes; 2 inch spears for asparagus.
Add the veggies, olive oil and salt and pepper (start with a teaspoon of each) to the pot.
Add enough stock (or stock plus water) to cover the veggies by about an inch.
Bring soup to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1-1.5 or hours until the beans are tender (If using canned beans, cook till potatoes are soft).
Once all of the ingredients are cooked through, return the soup to a boil and add pasta.
Cook at a boil for 8 minutes or until pasta is cooked but not mushy (follow package directions).
Add more salt and pepper to taste.
Top with grated parmesan cheese and enjoy!

This recipe was adapted from Cooking with Canada's Best. The cookbook also gives a recipe for pesto to be served on top. Feel free to use store bought pesto or just use parmesan cheese like I did. And go ahead and invest in a good parm. It's pricier than the kind you find in the pasta or pizza aisle, but it's much better and the stronger flavor means you use less.

For a printable recipe click here

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