Did you know that January is National Soup Month? It’s my favorite thing about this first month of the year. That and it’s usually the first of our two wintriest months. I’m a sucker for the season of hibernation. Between the chunky, cozy sweaters and overdose on comfort food, it’s the best time of the year (other than the holidays, of course). Soup month being in January is also pretty convenience because it’s easy to make soup recipes that are comforting but still good for you. It helps keep you on track with all those new year resolutions. To give you a little soup-spiration, the new recipes coming on Tuesdays this month will all be for soup! I focused on a specific adjective for each recipe: classic, creamy, meaty, and vegetarian. Today’s kicks the month off with a classic but hearty spin on a soup I grew up with. Classic Minestrone is meatless and full of wonderful veggies in a flavor-bursting broth that gives you the stick-to-the-ribs after-dinner feeling without actually sticking (if you know what I mean). It’s a fairly guilt-free soup that you can have a giant bowl of without hating yourself later.
One of the two Italian restaurants we used to order out from when I was a kid had this great version of Minestrone. We always ordered a quart of it and would have a small bowl alongside whatever else we ordered that night. Leftovers were just as good, maybe even better, with some toasted bread or a grilled cheese sandwich. This recipe reminds me of that soup but better. Tons of veggies and herbs come together with crushed tomatoes, beef broth and pasta for an ultra comforting dish made for the coldest of winter nights. A light sprinkle of Parmesan shavings finishes the dish for a little extra zest and creaminess. This one-pot wonder will become a go-to in your kitchen. I just know it.
It starts with a lot of chopping. Dice the onion, carrots, celery and finely chop the garlic. Get that in the pot with heated olive oil to start softening the veggies. Once they are ready to go, add the potatoes, basil, and dried herbs. You can use any mixture of fresh or dried. I used fresh basil and the rest of the herbs were dried but you can use dried basil as well or all fresh. Take advantage of whatever is in your pantry. After the herbs, add the beans, tomatoes and then beef stock. Let all that get comfortable for a while on the stove. The potatoes should be almost done cooking when you add in the pasta and spinach. The spinach will wilt quick but the pasta will take around 8-10 minutes to cook to al dente. Make sure it’s cooked but still has a nice, firm bite. This is important because if it’s mushy now, the leftovers will be nasty. The pasta will soak up all the liquid once you store it in the fridge so you want to make sure it still has a little flexibility to hold its form.
Can you make this vegetarian and/or vegan?
Absolutely! To make it vegetarian, swap the beef stock out for veggie stock. To make it vegan, also swap the pasta for a vegan pasta because some classic options might contain egg.
Is this dairy-free?
Yes, it is! Although if you add the Parmesan shavings at the end, it is not. So keep those out of your bowl or use a dairy-free alternative if you prefer.
Can I use a different bean other than kidney?
Absolutely! Use whatever you have in the pantry. A handful of substitutes include Cannellini Beans, Chickpeas or Black Beans.
What can I substitute for spinach?
Any green will do. Kale would make an extra nutritious addition. Chard is also a great alternative. Collard Greens if you’re feeling particularly daring. Work with what’s in season and on sale.
I can’t find crushed tomatoes...
Crushed tomatoes work for this recipe because it gives the broth a rich, tomatoey base. Finding the 15 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes can be tricky though so I get it. My first suggestion would be to buy one of the big 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes and save the other half for another recipe, like Shakshuka or Pulled Pork Tacos. If you don’t want to do that, use a 15 oz. can of Petite diced tomatoes or pulse a can of Whole Tomatoes in a food processor or blender a few times to get a consistency similar to crushed tomatoes.
Classic Minestrone Soup
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, diced
3 Carrots, diced
2 Celery Stalks, diced
2 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
2 medium Red Potatoes, diced
¼ cup Basil, chopped (or 1 tbsp. dried)
1 tbsp. Parsley
1 tsp. Oregano
½ tsp. Thyme
15 oz. Dark Kidney Beans, drained & rinsed
15 oz. Crushed Tomatoes
6-8 cups Beef Stock or Broth*
8 oz. Short Pasta (I used Mostaccioli)
5 oz. Spinach
Shaved Parmesan Cheese, for garnish
Salt & Pepper
1 - Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook 10-12 minutes until the vegetables are softened and the onion is translucent.
2 - Add the potatoes to the pot with the fresh and dried herbs. Stir to combine. Add in the beans, crushed tomatoes, and 6 cups of beef stock. Add up to two more cups of beef stock for a looser soup*. Stir once more to combine and bring to a simmer. Let cook 25-30 minutes until the potatoes have become almost fork tender.
2 - Add the pasta and spinach to the pot. Let cook for another 10-12 minutes until the pasta is al dente and the spinach has wilted. Serve topped with shaved parmesan cheese, if desired, and a side of crusty bread.
Yields: 8-10 Servings
* I only used 6 cups of beef stock which made a chunky soup. If you prefer more broth, add more stock until you reach the consistency you prefer.