Minestrone has to be my favorite soup ever, bar none. With its savory meatballs, plump noodles and just about any vegetables and beans you care to put in, floating in a rich, tomato-flavored broth, this soup is almost a meal in itself!
This recipe has been in the works since 1998, when across-the-street neighbor Sarah B. and I first wrote it down. Such terms as “2 handfulls green beans” have been refined, and instead of soup bones, I now use seasoned meatballs based on the Meatball Soup recipe from our Better Homes and Gardens Italian Cook Book (circa 1979). It is still a work in progress, but everyone we’ve served it to has enjoyed this hearty soup. The recipe makes roughly 6 quarts—enough to serve dinner guests, or to freeze for later…if you can keep from eating it for lunch the next day!
3 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth OR 1 (1 qt) box beef or vegetable broth, plus equal amount of water
2 cups each chopped carrots, celery, green beans and red-skinned potatoes
1 tsp minced garlic
A scant ¼ tsp each dried rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage and marjoram OR ½ tsp each of fresh herbs listed (minced) OR 1 tsp Italian seasoning
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried parsley OR 1 Tbsp snipped fresh parsley
1 large or 2 small bay leaves (optional)*
Place in an 8-quart stockpot on low heat. Make meatballs as follows:
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 tsp salt
½ tsp granulated garlic
1 Tbsp snipped fresh parsley OR 1 tsp dried parsley
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Mix thoroughly in an electric mixer and roll into 1” diameter balls. Drop into soup. Cover soup and let slow-cook for 3-6 hours for best results.
One hour before serving time, bring soup to a boil and add 8 oz dried pasta of choice (small shells, macaroni, rotini or penne work best). Cook pasta until just al dente (tender to bite), and the vegetables are soft. Then add:
1 cup frozen peas
1 (8.75 oz) can kidney beans
1 (16 oz) can tomato sauce OR diced tomatoes
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
Turn the burner to low heat and simmer a few minutes, to allow the flavors to blend. You may need an additional can of chicken broth or extra water and a bullion cube to correct the flavor and amount of broth. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
Serve immediately and pass grated Parmesan cheese at table, if desired.
* If your bay leaves are crushed, like mine are, you can put a teaspoon or so in a tea-ball and hang it from the edge of the pot via the little chain and hook attached. Be sure the broth covers the tea-ball at least half-way, and remove the tea-ball before serving.
~Try substituting steak for meatballs—chop the steak into tiny pieces (about ½”) to ensure they pick up the flavor of the broth.
~Add other veggies and/or beans such as chopped cabbage, spinach or leftover steamed kale* (added five minutes before serving) and garbanzo beans.
~Try it with chicken or turkey for something different.
There are endless variations of this satisfying soup!
* When adding kale to soup, it's best to use pre-cooked kale, as fresh tends to have too much flavor of its own.
Bon appetite, Gentle Readers!