Monday, February 20, 2012

Minestrone Soup

I love making soups. They're so quick, easy, and perfect for a cold winter day. I like that I can throw in ingredients that I usually have sitting in my fridge and pantry and turn them into something delicious. One of my favourites is minestrone soup.

I've been looking around online and there are so many different variations of it - some with beef and some without, and it seems like each recipe calls for a different batch of vegetables. I decided to try to make it with what I had around the house - though I did go out of my way to get some Swiss chard to try with this soup for the first time, as called for in a winter minestrone soup recipe that I found on Giada DeLaurentiis' website. This is the version I threw together for lunch today, which makes a big potful of soup.

  • 2 pieces of bacon
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots (or the equivalent amount in baby carrots, which is what I used)
  • 1 potato
  • 7 leaves of Swiss chard
  • 1-540 mL can of white kidney beans
  • 1-796 mL can of San Marzano-type tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of macaroni (or other small pasta like ditalini or baby shells)
  • 900 mL of beef broth
  • 1 cup of water
  • Dried Italian herbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan cheese

Dice the onion, garlic, celery, carrots and potatoes. I used a baking potato because that's what I had lying around, but they tend to break apart while they boil so if you want to avoid that, try a waxier potato like a red potato, which should stay together better as the broth boils. Remove the stems from the Swiss chard and cut the leaves up into large pieces.

Fry the bacon, drain the fat, and remove them and chop them up. Saute the onion, garlic, celery and carrots in the olive oil until they are soft. Put the bacon back in. Add the Swiss chard and the potatoes and saute everything together for several minutes. Next, add a splash of the broth into the pot and scrape off any brown bits that remain on the bottom of the pot from sauteing the vegetables - those brown bits add lots of flavour to the soup! 

Add the rest of the broth, the tomatoes and the beans. Add the macaroni, as well as the water so you don't lose too much broth as a result of cooking the macaroni. Sprinkle some dried Italian herb mix into the soup. 

Bring the soup to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer, covered, for twenty minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the pasta is cooked through. If, like me, you used whole tomatoes rather than diced tomatoes, they should break apart as they simmer, but I got impatient and moved the process along with my ladle. Add salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top, and serve with some crusty Italian bread - perfect for dipping into the soup!

I loved this soup. The bacon gave the broth a nice, full flavour. The vegetables were tender but not too soft, and the pasta was perfect. There are a lot of delicious flavours in this soup, and with all of those vegetables in there, I don't feel at all guilty about tossing some bacon into the mix. The preparation time took about twenty minutes, though I could have been faster if I had prepared all of my vegetables before starting rather than chopping and tossing things in as I went. I'll definitely be making this again.

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