Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Minestrone Soup- Perfect for a Cold & Snowy Day!

I have been thinking a lot about comfort food since Friday's post.  And now, as I look outside my window and the snow is swirling, I realize how incredibly important comfort food really is.  The beauty of it is that, by design, it melts away any negative feelings- sadness, loss, frustration, disappointment, and even the chill of the external air.  Comfort foods are foods that evoke happy memories, or satisfy cravings that normally go denied.  Even more so, to me, comfort foods can be foods that are comforting to make as well.

Soup has always been on of those wonderful foods that is not only comforting to eat, but is wonderful to make.  As you may have noticed, I rarely use recipes, as it makes me happy to allow my brain to work independently and create its own combinations.  Soup is one of those things that you can be completely mindless with-perhaps your mind is full of worry- and still create something warm and comforting.  Personally, I find the very act of chopping vegetables to be soothing.  

One of my favorite soups to make this winter has been Minestrone- though, of course, my own take on Minestrone.  The beauty of Minestrone lies in its recipe- or rather the lack thereof.  Historically Minestrone is a traditional Italian tomato based soup made from basically whatever is on hand.  Vegetables that are in season, maybe meat, maybe just meat stock, or maybe completely vegetarian.  Pasta and beans are often added, but by and large, Minestrone is a "kitchen sink" soup- whatever you have on hand- throw it in.

I like to make mine nice and thick and hearty.  On a cold day when I pull it out to eat for lunch, I want to be warmed through and through.  Therefore, I add lots of beans, pasta, vegetables and a protein to the pot, sometimes chicken, some times mini meatballs.

2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 (28 oz) cans + 1 (12 oz) can diced low sodium tomatoes
1 yellow onion, chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 cans Cannelloni Beans (drained)
1 1/2 cups (uncooked) orzo pasta, cooked and drained
10 Cremini Mushrooms, quartered
2 Zucchini, quartered and sliced into bite size pieces
Raw baby spinach leaves
2 cups low sodium vegetable stock

Optional- mini meatballs, poached chicken breast, etc

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat and add the olive oil.  Once heated through, add the onions, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes (to your liking), salt, pepper and, when the onions and garlic are translucent, the herbs.  Allow these flavors to meld together, and then add the tomatoes.  Cover and set over medium low heat for a 30 minutes or so to let the flavor develop.  

With an immersion blender, (or a food processor or blender), blend the ingredients together until the soup is smooth in consistency.  Add the stock until the soup is a desirable consistency, and then add beans, vegetables, and any protein, stirring gently.  Simmer for another 30 minutes or so.  Season as necessary

Once the soup is complete, remove from the heat source and add the pasta. I like to add at the very end so the pasta doesn't re heat and expand too much in the soup.

Ladle directly into a bowl and enjoy with a nice piece of crusty bread, or, like me, ladle into individual serving containers and stock your freezer for the days and weeks ahead.  

Minestrone is one of the simplest and yet most fulfilling soups.  Full of hearty ingredients, and vegetables it is chock full of nutrients for the cold winter months.       


The Small Boston Kitchen said...

Fi, this seriously looks good! Perfect for a gross day like today...love that you used orzo. I don't know why but orzo in soup makes me so happy :)

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

Orzo is perfect in soups like this. Great recipe!

aimee said...

love, love, love minestrone soup. especially when it's freezing outside.

and i also love your TEAPOT!

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