Via Fratta's Tuscan Minestrone Soup

By • September 21, 2013 • 10 Comments

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Author Notes: Minestrone smells like Italy -- just like lasagna, tomato sauce, and the starchy water left in the pan after cooking pasta. This may be just another minestrone recipe, but I love how rich and deep it is, and how preparing it can be quite relaxing.

This Tuscan-inspired fall minestrone is essentially Italy in a bowl. It is the way my mom, grandma, and great grandma have always done it.

Serve warm, or not. If you purée it with a blender your kids will love it. I call this 'Tuscan' because the traditional minestrone only calls for vegetables, and maybe some Cannellini beans. I enriched it with split peas and legumes to enhance the protein content. Making this from scratch requires some work, but it freezes wonderfully and you can keep it in the fridge to reheat for the next 2 to 3 days. Still, this soup is so heartwarming and comforting -- I could just eat it over and over again during the chillier days of autumn. Don’t be afraid to throw in extra veggies: the more there are, the tastier it will be!
Valentina Solfrini

Food52 Review: This soup is chock-full of goodness: beans, lentils, and split peas; lots of vegetables including zucchini, potatoes, and pumpkin; and a whole lot more. The garlic, sage, and rosemary provide aromatics and give the right amount of flavor without overpowering, while the parmesan rind adds a distinct zesty, salty kick. Like most soups, this one certainly improves with age, so if you’re looking to impress it may be best to plan in advance. And don’t forget to add a nice crunch on top with some croutons: They truly complete the dish! snowcitygirl

Serves 8 to 10

For the soup:

  • 1/2 cup good quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 5-6 sage leaves
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 medium carrots, scrubbed
  • 1 long celery stalk, with leaves if possible
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled
  • 1 large wedge of pumpkin (about 1/4 small pumpkin, or 2 cups of 1-inch cubes)
  • 3/4 to 1 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 bunch of Swiss chard or Tuscan kale
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1/2 cup split peas
  • 1/2 cup borlotti beans (or any other kind you like)
  • 1 organic vegetable bouillon cube (optional, but it does add a little boost)
  • A 3- by 4-inch piece of Parmesan rind (adds flavor, but skip if you are vegan)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon coarse salt

To serve:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano (skip to keep things vegan)
  • Croutons (tossed with EVOO, rosemary, and garlic, then toasted)
  1. If using fresh beans, soak them the night before with a bit of lemon juice. Lentils can be soaked for just an hour or 30 minutes. Once ready, rinse them well. Pre-cook the beans for about 20 to 30 minutes. If using canned, add them 10 minutes before the end of cooking.
  2. Wash, trim, and cut all the vegetables: Finely dice the onion, celery, and all but one carrot. Cut the last carrot more coarsely. The chopped base of these three vegetables is called soffritto. Chop the other vegetables into chunkier pieces.
  3. Add the oil to a pot that can hold all the vegetables and water to cook them. Peel the garlic cloves and crush them, then lightly stir fry them with the sage and rosemary. Even though the pot is big, it is best to use a medium flame for this recipe. After some 5 minutes everything should smell very aromatic.
  4. Add the soffritto mixture to the oil and stir around. Let it cook until the onion gets a bit translucent; another 5 minutes will do. Then, remove the herbs and garlic.
  5. Add the potatoes, pumpkin, beans, split peas, tomato sauce, bouillon cube (if using), and Parmesan rind (if using). Stir things around a bit and add water to cover everything by a couple inches. Partially cover the pot, and wait for it to come to a boil.
  6. At this point add about a half tablespoon of the salt. It is best to check again for salt later. Keep it to a steady, gentle simmer.
  7. After 10 minutes, add the lentils, the zucchini, and the chard. Now you can leave it to cook undisturbed for 30 more minutes; just check it every now and then to make sure there’s enough water in the pot and nothing sticks. You can add more or less water depending on how thick you want it to be, but don’t add too much or it might get bland. When the soup is almost done, check for salt and adjust to your liking.
  8. For the croutons: Cut slices of crusty bread and rub them with garlic, olive oil, and rosemary. Or, cut them into rough cubes and toss them with those ingredients. Toast them until crispy and golden.
  9. Serve the soup with the croutons or bruschetta, a bit more olive oil, and a teaspoon or two of Parmigiano. It is really good straight from the pot, and 1,000 times better a few hours later or the day after.
  10. SUBSTITUTIONS: - Use any kind of bean you like! - Change the vegetables according to what’s seasonally available. - Chickpeas, small pasta, or other things like millet, rice, farro, etc. would be great add-ons or bread substitutes. I actually added the bread just for styling purposes, as I tend to avoid it when I can. - Miso would be good instead of the salt. Not italian, but it would do an awesome job! Use a little over a tablespoon instead of the bouillon cube.
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12 months ago nycnomad

How much rosemary does this recipe call for? It isn't in the ingredient list. And is it fresh or dried?

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12 months ago Valentina Solfrini

About a 5" long sprig. This amount will contribute to the overall flavor, but it won't make a clear statement. If you like rosemary feel free to use a little more!
I must have read this recipe 10+ times...I can't believe there are things I missed out still! Editing as soon as I can, thanks for pointing it out.

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12 months ago nycnomad

Thank you. Its no worry. I deleted an entire text box instead of clicking the add a step button, thus omitting one of the primary ingredients to my last recipe. It happens.

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12 months ago Paige

Approximately what amount would a large wedge of pumpkin be? Any specific type of pumpkin?

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12 months ago Valentina Solfrini

Sorry I couldn't be more precise on that one, but it really depends on how much you like pumpkin and how much you'd like to have in your soup. Use butternut squash, Delicata, Kabocha...whatever you prefer! Mine was about 4" thick and 5" long.

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12 months ago emcsull

have I missed something ? What is EVOO ?

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12 months ago Valentina Solfrini

Uh, sorry about that! It stands for 'Extra Virgin olive Oil'!

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12 months ago QueenSashy

The photo (and the soup) are such yum!

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12 months ago Pegeen

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

Beautiful photos! Plan to make this soon.

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12 months ago Valentina Solfrini

Thanks! Let me know how it goes when you do! :D