The first soup I learned to make was minestrone. As a youngster, I thought it was very romantic to use wine in cooking. I felt like such a grown up incorporating it. The smell of garlic and Italian herbs filled the air. And at once, I was transported from my life on the Illinois prairie to the rustic Italian countryside. Wine country, instead of corn country.
I still have a love affair with minestrone. As it's name suggests, it's a healing soup that provides a substantial meal. It also works well in the spring and summer. One of my favorite things is loading up bags of fresh produce at the farmer's market with minestrone in mind. Zucchini, yellow squash, fresh basil, green beans are an easy find in the mid-to-late summer months.
While I used cranberry beans for this recipe, they can be a tough find. Feel more than free to substitute a can of cannellini beans or red kidney beans. I also used fresh basil, but feel free to use 1 tsp dried basil, instead.
1 cup dried shell pasta
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp dried thyme
½-1 tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp ground mustard seed
2 bay leaves
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, julienned or chopped
½ cup fresh or frozen green beans
1 medium yellow squash, halved and thick cut
1 medium zucchini, halved and thick cut
¼ cup dry white wine
1 15.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 bouillon cube (vegetable or fake chicken)
2 ½ cup water
1 cup fresh spinach, packed
½ cup fresh basil leaves, packed
½ cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 cup cranberry beans, cannellini beans or kidney beans
¼ cup nutritional yeast (optional)
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1. Cook shell pasta according to the directions on the bag. Once completed, drain, rinse and set aside.
2. In a large heavy pot or dutch oven, heat olive over medium heat and add onions, garlic, salt and black pepper. Once it sizzles, turn down to low and saute for ~5 minutes. Add oregano, thyme, crushed red pepper, ground mustard, bay leaves, carrot and celery. Sauté for 5 more minutes over low.
3. Add zucchini, yellow squash, green beans and wine. Allow wine to reduce (about 5 minutes), and then, add tomatoes and the bouillon cube. Cover and simmer on low for 15 minutes.
4. Stir in water, basil leaves, parsley, beans, prepared pasta shells and nutritional yeast (if using). Simmer for 5 additional minutes or until beans have cooked through. Taste, and adjust seasonings (more salt? more crushed red pepper? etc). Serve with thick cut pieces of crusty bread.