Hearty Minestrone Soup
I have a complicated relationship with soups. I absolutely adore a chunky chowder, a velvety smooth bisque, or a brothy French Onion, but something about soup just doesn’t seem filling, hearty, or substantial. Since I’m always looking for make-ahead dishes I can bring to work for lunch I have to say I was a bit hesitant to make soup. Wouldn’t I get hungry long before dinner if all I had for lunch was soup? And being hungry where I work is a bad thing. Everyone is a candy addict and it is so easy to just snack all day on sugary treats.
But, the cold weather makes me want hot, comforting food like soup, so I figured I might as well try out a few recipes and try to find something nice and hearty.
…. and I managed to make a recipe that was packed with flavor and healthy and filling ingredients: minestrone.
I don’t typically like minestrone soups as so many have pasta or rice in them (and even though I love pasta and rice in all forms I don’t care for them in most soups) so it was a relief to make a version that didn’t include either. Instead, heartiness came from beans, potato, chunks of tomato, and ribbons of tender chard.
The recipe (changed slightly from Giada de Laurenttis) is super versatile. I think you could really add any number of herbs to change the flavor; use veggie stock and eliminate the cured meat for a vegetarian version; use onion instead of leek; kale or spinach instead of Swiss chard; sweet potato instead of russet (that sweetness sounds really good… I think I’ll do that next time I make it); the addition of zucchini or other squash could be delicious; you could add chunks of sausage for something meatier; and I think almost any bean would be perfect. And if you’re so inclined, you could add pasta as well…
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 leek, thinly sliced
- 2 carrots, peeled, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, prosciutto, or bacon, coarsely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bunch Swiss chard, ribs removed, leaves thinly sliced
- 2 russet potatoes, peeled, cubed
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
- 5 cups beef broth
- 1 ounce piece Parmesan cheese rind (this adds a lot of flavor, but a touch more salt and pancetta would work if you don’t have the rind)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- 1 fresh rosemary sprig
- Salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a heavy large pot over medium heat. Add the leek, carrots, celery, and pancetta. Sauté until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, Swiss chard, and potato; sauté for 2 minutes. Sprinkle in 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
Add the tomatoes and rosemary sprig. Simmer until the chard is wilted and the tomatoes break down, about 10 minutes. It may look like a lot of chard, but it wilts down a lot.
Meanwhile, blend 3/4 cup of the beans with 1 cup of the broth in a processor until almost smooth. Add the pureed bean mixture, remaining broth, and Parmesan cheese rind to the vegetable mixture. Simmer until the potato pieces are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Stir in the whole beans and parsley. Simmer until the beans are heated through and the soup is thick, about 2 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Discard Parmesan rind and rosemary sprig (the leaves will have fallen off of the stem.) Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired. Delicious served with a crusty piece of bread or roll.