What this Chef Cooks at Home

There’s nothing better than a hot bowl of homemade soup on a cold night. And we’ve had some cold and snowy nights lately! Growing up in Louisiana, our soup of choice was always gumbo (and I may share that recipe in the future), but spending much of my career cooking Italian food, I’ve added minestrone to my cooking-at-home repertoire, and it’s a favorite!

I like to make this soup with whatever vegetables I have on hand–this is a true “clean-out-the-fridge” soup, so whatever veggies you like, great. Whatever pasta you have on hand, fine. Your kids hate spinach, leave it out. It all works. Each batch is different, but you’ll always end up with a soul-satisfying (and economical) meal!

Minestrone Soup
Serves 6-8

olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium ribs celery, chopped
1⁄4 cup tomato paste
2 cups chopped seasonal vegetables (yellow squash, zucchini, butternut squash, green beans, peppers, peas, etc.—they all work)
4 cloves minced garlic
1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano
1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 large can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, with their liquid (or 2 small 15-ounce cans); San Marzano is great if you have it!
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups water
2 bay leaves
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 cup whole grain pasta, like penne, rigatoni, or whatever you have on hand
1 can (15 ounces) Great Northern beans or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups baby spinach, or chopped kale (Tuscan kale is perfect here)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Parmesan cheese

1. Warm about 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, tomato paste and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened, and the onions are turning translucent, about 7 to 10 minutes.
2. Add the seasonal vegetables, garlic, oregano, and thyme. Cook until fragrant, stirring frequently, about 2 minutes.
3. Pour in the diced tomatoes and their juices, vegetable or chicken broth, and water. Add the salt and bay leaves. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper.
4. Raise heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot with the lid,
leaving about a 1” gap for steam to escape. Reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer.
5. Meanwhile, mash about a third of the drained beans with a fork. This will help thicken the soup.
6. Cook for 15 minutes, then remove the lid and add the pasta, beans (mashed and whole), and greens. Continue simmering, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the pasta is cooked al dente and the greens are tender.
7. Remove the pot from the heat, then remove the bay leaves (or leave them in, and whoever gets one in their bowl does the dishes!). Stir in the lemon juice and remaining tablespoon of olive oil. The lemon juice and olive oil really add a lot here. Taste and season with more salt and pepper.
8. If you have Parmesan rinds (and you should save and freeze these), chop some up and place in the bottom of each bowl. The hot minestrone poured on top will start to melt the cheese. You can also put grated Parmesan in the bottom of the bowl if that’s what you have in the fridge.
9. Serve with some good bread, and a bottle of good Chianti! Buon appetito!