Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a slight addiction to soup. I could eat soup every day for every meal and never ever tire of it. I'm the crazy girl eating hot soup sitting outside in August in Florida when the temperature is hovering around 100 and the humidity is 90%. I've had parties where all I served was a variety of soups. The first question I ask every waiter involves the day's soup offering. Okay, maybe it is more than a "slight" addiction! This is a great cleaning out the fridge soup. I made this minestrone frequently this winter when the crisper drawers were overflowing with the goodies from our CSA basket. It is a yummy versatile soup. You can use kale, chard, or really any green to replace the spinach and you can switch up the veggies to your liking. Regarding the beans, I love Rancho Gordo beans and use the Rio Zape bean here but you can use your favorite pinto or any other bean if you prefer. Regarding the cheese rind, when you finish a block of parmesan, toss the rind in the freezer in a zip lock. Also, Whole Foods sells them separately if you don't have one handy. It adds a great depth of flavor to soups and meat sauces. - melissav —melissav
Test Kitchen Notes
The way melissav has you add the vegetables to the soup in sequence of their cooking time makes the end product a colorful bowl of flavor. The chili powder is a further flavor enhancer as well as color booster. The pesto (I used parsley, basil, and the tops of some spring onions I had in the fridge) provides a further complementary layer. I would suggest serving the pesto with elongated garlic croutons like aioli is served with boulliabaise so the eater can take an active role in seasoning the soup to taste. - cheese1227 —The Editors
a big pot, about 8
Dried Beans (see headnote)
pancetta, cubed small
large yellow onion, diced
stalks celery, diced
carrots, 2 diced and 2 sliced into thin rounds
garlic cloves, minced
New Mexico Chile Powder (Rancho Gordo's is great)
green beans, cut into bite size pieces
large or 2 small zuchinni, bite size cubes
large or 2 small summer squash, bite size cubes
juice of 1/2 lemon (reserve zest of the whole lemon for the pesto)
salt & pepper
Lemon Herb Pesto
loosely packed herbs, equal amounts of chives, thai basil, parsley and a small amount of tarragon and mint. This is very adjustable for whatever you have in the garden or fridge.
toasted pine nuts
zest of one lemon
In This Recipe
Rinse the beans and pick out debris. Soak the beans for 4-6 hours or overnight in filtered water. The beans should be covered by 1-2 inches of water. If you forget, no big deal. The beans will just take a little longer to cook.
Saute the pancetta in a little olive oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven or stock pot until crisp. Remove the pancetta with a slotted soup and set aside.
Turn the heat up to medium high and add the onions, celery, diced carrot, and garlic to the pancetta drippings. Saute approximately 8-10 minutes until soft.
Drain the beans, reserving the liquid. Add enough chicken stock to the bean liquid so you have 8 cups of liquid. Add the combined liquid, beans, parmesan rinds, and chili powder to the pot. The chile powder adds a beautiful color and a light background flavor.
Bring to a boil and hard boil for five minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans they are just about cooked through and soft. It took me about 2 hours but it really depends upon your beans. If your liquid is evaropating too fast or you prefer a more brothy soup, add more stock or partially cover the pot.
Add salt to taste (I used 1 TB but it depends upon the salt content of your stock), the carrot coins and simmer for 10 minutes. Then add the green beans, zucchini, and squash and simmer until cooked through, 5-10 minutes.
Turn the heat to low and add the spinach and lemon juice. Cover until the spinach is just wilted. Season to taste with salt and lots of pepper.
Serve topped with a dollop of the pesto and a sprinkling of the pancetta bits if your piggly wiggly husband hasn't already sneaked all the pancetta bits when you weren't looking!
Lemon Herb Pesto
Pulse all the ingredients in a food processor until coarsely blended. Start with 3 TB olive and add more if need to combine. Season to taste with salt