Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's for dinner Minestrone

Minestrone soup has been the staple dish of millions of Italian Mamas.  You know, they made this because they were trying to use all the bits and bobs up that was hanging around their kitchen. It's true.  You can make this soup to your liking, and the content of your fridge, freezer and pantry. I make variations of it all the time, but basically Minestrone soup traditionally has beans, noodles and veggies in it.

This is one of my most favorite soups, and you can throw it together in about 20 minutes... no lie. I like it best because it has all the food groups in it for dinner... protein, starch and veggies.  There is no need for anything else (unless you want to). The first time I made this, I had a bunch of leftover spaghetti sauce to use up, and that's what I started with, but if you didn't have any of that, you could use jarred spaghetti sauce or just canned diced tomatoes.  I've done it all three ways.

Makes enough for 4-8 people
1 14oz. can beans (I like the Chili Beans, not "Chili", but beans in a chili sauce)
1 1/2 cups potatoes, diced (frozen works fine)
1 14oz. can tomatoes, diced or 2 cups spaghetti sauce (optional)
2 cups noodles, dried
1-2 cups meat, diced (kielbasa, chicken, pork, ground beef)
6-8 cups stock, chicken or beef
1-2 cups spinach, shredded (or a box of frozen)
1-2 carrots, diced
1-2 celery stalks, diced
1 bell pepper, diced small
1 cup green beans, chopped
1-2 Tbsp pesto (optional)
1 tsp oregano
1-2 tsp seasoning salt
1/2 tsp cayenne (optional)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Serve with Parmesan Cheese

Instructions-  Add the tomato mixture (spaghetti sauce or canned tomatoes), add the broth, meat, potatoes and veggies.  No need to saute anything.... just add everything and heat it up until the veggies, and noodles, are cooked to your liking, which I have found is just about the same time!  Add more stock, or water, if the soup seems too thick.
Beans- Any canned beans is great. White beans cannelli or northern, kidney beans, red beans, even chili beans, or chili works.  I don't bother draining the beans.
Tomatoes- Canned diced tomatoes (any flavor), leftover spaghetti sauce or 1 1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, diced
Meat- Kielbasa, other sausages (crumbled or sliced), chicken (chopped or shredded), pork (shredded or chopped
Veggies- Seriously, what do you have, fresh or frozen?  I like carrots, celery, spinach or chard, or kale, green beans (fresh, frozen or canned), zucchini. When I use frozen spinach, I don't even thaw it, I just throw the whole block in there. It'll thaw....
Potatoes- I use the frozen cubed hash brown potatoes because it is so easy, but fresh is great too. A great use for those 2-3 potatoes hanging around the house...
Pasta- Any shape is good, macaroni, fusilli, bow ties.  ONE THING about the pasta, you can cook it right in the soup which thickens it up. If you are not going to eat the whole batch, then you may want to cook the noodles (al dente) in another pot and add to the soup as you serve it.  Noodles have a way of swelling, swelling, swelling into HUGE noodles that break to bits.  Most people won't care about that, but it does bug me.

Vegetarian Option? Oh yeah, it works great!  Obviously, use vegetable broth and leave out the meat but with beans, pasta, potatoes and veggies, it will taste great!

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