Weeknight Cooking

Minestrone Soup

November  8, 2010

Minestrone Soup

- Jenny

The mysteries of the culinary world are many, and even those with self-evident answers continue to surprise and stump. Why do 60 seconds stand between a silken plate of cod and garbage? What is it about parsley? And when precisely does one feel like a nut, and when is it that one don’t?

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Me, I am always amazed how much better soup tastes on day three.

Yes I understand in the most theoretical sense that flavors need time to settle, to blend, to mix together like middle schoolers at a dance who can’t really get it right the first time. But no time was this more clear than when I made Minestrone Soup.

I can’t recall exactly what inspired me to make this –- I think someone was tweeting or blogging or bragging in some other electronic form about their version of minestrone, and I got a hankering. I decided to see if I could Jenny-fy it for weeknight cooking by substituting canned cannellini and garbanzo beans for the dry ones used here -- about ¾ of a can each.

In a twist to keep you all guessing, I used fresh green beans, not frozen (and the best looking zucchini I could find in the market), but then reverted to canned tomatoes. I considered using chicken stock for depth, but wanted to stay true to the vegetarian spirit that Foodwriter97426 was bringing.

I trimmed nearly an hour off the first set of instructions, given my canned beans. From there I followed the recipe word for word, using orzo as my pasta of choice. I had a bottle of Malbec left from a party the day before, and in that went at the end.

I confess that Sunday night, when it was all said and done, I was pleased with the speed of my soup, but felt it was a little bland. Two days went by and, realizing I needed a sack lunch, I packed it with low expectations and trudged up the hill to the Metro.

Lunch rolled around, and I pulled out my soup, some very good Parmesan and a cheese grater and got to work at the microwave. You can imagine that when you are a fish out of water at your new office (we’re talking mackerel in the rain forest here), madly working the cheese grater at your desk does little to dispel the skepticism of your colleagues about your seriousness of purpose.

But let me tell you, this recipe two days after the fact, with a hefty dose of cheese, is just what the week-day doctor ordered.

Brown baggers, get to it. I recommend you bring a cloth napkin to work too. Lunch, even one reheated at the office in a dirty microwave near the forlorn box of Krispy Kreme donuts and several dirty coffee mugs, should always be a civilized affair.

Minestrone Soup

By Foodwriter97426

Serves 6

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • Olive or vegetable oil for sauteing
  • 3/4 cup dry cannellini beans
  • 1/4 cup dry garbanzo beans
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons fresh oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (or 1 can, with juice)
  • 1 cup cut green beans, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 2-inch piece Parmesan cheese rind
  • 1 small Napa cabbage (about 10 oz)
  • 1/3 cup soup pasta (e.g.ditalini, orzo, tiny shells)
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • Shredded Parmesan for garnish
1. Heat a heavy 4-quart (or larger) pot over medium-high heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pot. Add the onions and garlic; reduce the heat to medium. Saute until the onions are translucent.

2. Add the beans, water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer 1 1/2 hours, or until the beans are just barely tender.
Add the herbs and seasonings, tomatoes, green beans, zucchini and cheese rind. Return to a boil briefly, then reduce the heat to low and simmer an additional 30 minutes.

3. In the meantime, thinly slice and chop the cabbage. Add to the soup along with the pasta and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pasta is tender.

4. At this point the soup can be refrigerated (or left on the stove with the heat off for up to 2 hours). Reheat before serving. When ready to serve, add the wine and taste for seasoning. Serve topped with grated cheese if desired, or pass the cheese at the table.
Note: The vegetables can be changed, added to or deleted. These amounts are only suggestions. Dried herbs can be used in place of fresh-cut amounts by 1/2.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
Jennifer Steinhauer
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[email protected] April 17, 2020
Right now, I'm cooking this soup for the 6th time. It is wonderful. My only complaint is that it's hard to stop having MORE.
[email protected] March 28, 2020
Right now, I'm making this recipe for the 4th time in a month. Best minestrone ever! Thank you!
Deloyd March 5, 2011
So...I have celiac sprue...maybe rice pasta, but what about brown or wild rice? Any other thoughts?
KitchenLittle November 12, 2010
I always bring a cloth napkin, my own real bowls or plates and silverware for work lunch. I also keep a jar of crushed red pepper in my desk drawer. Weirdness abound here.
Jestei November 14, 2010
we just know lunch is the best part of the work day!
mcs3000 November 8, 2010
Happy to hear others bring cheese graters(?) and pepper mills (?) into work. Once I brought a sugar-duster for Linzer cookies (friend's b-day). Everyone laughed until they tasted them. I'm sure once your colleagues get a whiff of your soup, they'll beat a path to your desk - whether you want them there or not.
Jestei November 8, 2010
this is a whole secret society -- brown bag nerds!
drbabs November 8, 2010
Thanks, Jenny. I think pretty soon everyone in your office will be bringing in their own cheese grater. In fact, if your office does a holiday grab bag, you could give the lucky person whose name you get a cheese grater, some good parmesan and this soup recipe. Who knows--you could start a whole trend!
Jestei November 8, 2010
Do you think? Today I brought a pepper mill........
mrslarkin November 8, 2010
Just in time. It's soup weather here in NY. Thanks, Jenny!
Jestei November 8, 2010
i hope you enjoy it
JenniferF November 8, 2010
Yum. I made minestrone yesterday. Work to make it in the AM, simmer a while, turn it off, and let it sit all day on the stove. I add the cooked pasta and fresh spinach at the last minute.
Jestei November 8, 2010
that sounds good. its ok to leave it like that all day?
mariaraynal November 8, 2010
I've done the cheese grater thing. My mom taught me to cook the pasta al dente, then add it to the individual bowls of hot soup -- this ways it stays al dente. It warms up immediately even with leftover soup. Love this technique.
Jestei November 8, 2010
oh that is great thanks for the tip!! hope you are doing well.
Rhonda35 November 8, 2010
Picturing you with your cheese grater at work has me cracking up!!
Jestei November 8, 2010
it is met with confusion.
Midge November 8, 2010
Yum, now I have a hankering for minestrone. I'm so impressed that you bring your cheese grater to work.
Jestei November 8, 2010
i am seriously considering keeping an entire supply closet here.