A Little Vegetarian Minestrone
Minestrone is a staple throughout Italy, and while we will from time to time feature others of this soup, this particular vegetarian version is actually one of our favorites, for a lot of reasons. Unlike a lot of this soup, this minestrone has plenty of good bean broth for starters and lots and lots of fall roast vegetables.
If you’re not as well-versed in minestrone (like most people aren’t) it is actually a very ancient soup made mainly from whatever veggies you happened to have around the kitchen. This version, like most these days in Italy, has tomatoes and beans and broth from the beans as the main ingredient, which gives it a very vegetable taste that we happen to like a lot. And fortunately, the broth itself really doesn’t take so very long to make. And this one has leeks, turnips, carrots, onions, celery and a little basil and oregano to spice up the flavor.
- 1/2 pound (about 11/8 cups) dried white beans such as navy, cannellini, or borlotti beans, washed, picked over, and soaked for at least 4 hours
- 2 quarts water
- 1 medium onion, halved and peeled
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 large or 2 medium carrots, diced (1/2-inch dice, or smaller if desired)
- 1 celery stalk, diced (1/2-inch dice, or smaller if desired)
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, cleaned well, and thinly sliced
- 3 to 4 garlic cloves (to taste), minced
- 1 (14.5- or 28-ounce, to taste) can chopped tomatoes with juice
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 medium turnips, peeled and diced
- A bouquet garni: Parmesan rind, bay leaf, and a couple sprigs each of parsley and thyme
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup elbow macaroni or small shells
- Freshly grated Parmesan for serving
- Drain the soaked beans and place in a large saucepan with the water, onion, garlic, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer 30 minutes. Add salt to taste and continue to simmer another 30 to 45 minutes. The beans should be just tender, or almost. Remove from the heat and discard the onion, garlic, and bay leaf.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven and add the onion, carrots, and celery. Add some salt and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are just about tender, about 5 minutes. Add the parsley, leeks, garlic and cook until the leeks are slightly wilted. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, thyme, and salt to taste. Add the basil and oregano.
- Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes have cooked down somewhat and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes.
- Add the beans and their broth to the tomato base and stir together.
- Add the turnips and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The beans should be tender and the broth very tasty. Taste, adjust the salt, and add pepper to taste.
- Stir in the pasta and continue to simmer until cooked al dente, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve, topping each bowl with freshly grated Parmesan.