Cold, wet weather leads to cravings. Specifically, cravings for soup. I love a good, hearty winter soup. Especially the one I am going to share with you right now. It comes from this cherished little cookbook:
Which is the last remnant of a wonderful restaurant that is no more - Della Fonta. As the back cover explains "For over 30 years Ristorante della Fontana provided Salt Lake City area residents with fabulous Italian food." Until it lost its lease. Before then, it was a favorite of mine and my mother's - we would frequent stop by for lunch of a romaine lettuce salad, this soup and bread. It was especially delicious on rainy days - like today!
So let's get to it. For whatever reason, there are two nearly identical minestrone soup recipes - we are going to use Soup "B" which does not contain olive oil and does have green beans (the only difference I can determine from Soup "A").
My preference is to use as many fresh ingredients as possible - with fresh basil, oregano and garlic, but I've used granulated garlic and dried herbs successfully. I should also note right from the start that this is a very hearty soup but does not contain any meat. However, it is not vegetarian. If you want to make it vegetarian, I suggest using either mushroom or vegetable broth instead of beef broth and omitting the bullion cubes. I haven't ever tried it but I suspect you would want to include some mushrooms or something with that umami flavor to punch up the hearty nature.
But let's just start with the way I make it before we get to substitutes.
To start, you want a medium sized onion, a couple stalks of celery and a couple of carrots (the big, old fashioned kind rather than those fun little baby carrots we love so much).
Heat enough olive oil (or vegetable oil) to coat the bottom of a sauce pan and add the diced onions, carrots and celery. Let them sweat on medium heat until the carrots and celery are tender and the onions are translucent.While that pan is going (did I warn you this recipe also uses a lot of pots? I should have because it does), in another pot, add 1/3 cup of pearl barley to small to medium sized pot and cover with two cups of water. I really like pearl barley so I used about 2/3 cup, but didn't increase the water too much because you just have to bring it to a boil and let it simmer until the barley is tender all the way through - it doesn't need to soak in all the water to get tender. Strain off the excess water and set aside.
While everything is sweating and tenderizing over on the stove, pull out your cabbage and spinach - and take a minute to admire the beautiful color of this head of cabbage! So pretty - especially when contrasted with the spinach.
Anyway, chop 1/4 to 1/2 cup of spinach (I really don't measure this - that is the beauty of cooking as opposed to baking, everything is to taste!) and about a cup of cabbage. I chose to rinse it all off after chopping in my very handy salad spinner. To conserve pots, you can wait until the barley is finished and use that pot for double-duty. Cover the cabbage and spinach with water and cook on high until cabbage is tender.
Then dice up that fresh basil and toss it in with the cabbage and spinach. You can also pull the oregano leaves off the stalk and toss them in as well.
Strain and set aside.
Now is the time to pull out your stock pot - or 6-quart sauce pan - and start adding all of the ingredients - the carrots, celery and onions, the tender barley, 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, 2-3 cloves minced garlic and a cube each of chicken and beef bullion. Next up, add about a cup of green beans (I used fresh but they can be frozen or you can substitute peas or asparagus), 1 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes, 1 can kidney beans and the spinach, cabbage and herb mix. Last, add 5 14 1/2 ounce cans of beef broth.
Stir everything together and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Simmer until the flavor is blended. You can make this ahead and simmer it in a slow cooker if you want.
While the soup is simmering, make your pasta. It doesn't really matter what kind of pasta you use but I prefer something small - like these multigrain elbows. I used about half the box, but it is up to your taste as to how much you use.
While the soup is simmering and the pasta is cooking, this might be a good time to tidy up the kitchen.
Because, as you know, a watched pot never boils, right?
Finally, right before serving, add the pasta.
Minestrone Soup1 cup medium diced onion
1 cup medium diced celery
1 cup medium diced carrots
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons granulated garlic (or 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced)
1 cube chicken bullion
1 cube beef bullion
1 cup green beans
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 cup kidney beans
1/3 cup pearl barley
2 cups water
1/4 cup chopped spinach
1 cup chopped cabbage
4 14 1/2 ounce cans beef broth
I should mention this is a large recipe and it freezes well. Which means I don't have to get sick of it and burn out this week, I can store it away for another cold, rainy soup day.