How many times do you have a fridge drawer full of veggies that need to get used up?? This is a weekly occurrence for me: half a pepper, a whole zucchini shoved into the back and forgotten about, some grape tomatoes that are starting to get a little wrinkly. Clean out your fridge and make a big batch of soup, and you’ll not only utilize what you have and not throw money down the disposal, you’ll also have a really satisfying, delicious and healthy lunch for the week ahead.
I loosely refer to this hodgepodge soup as minestrone, which can be interpreted in many ways.
(Cookery) a soup made from a variety of vegetables and pasta
[from Italian, from minestrare to serve]
I start with a few basic ingredients and then chop up and add any and all veggies that are looking a little forlorn ’round my kitchen. (PS I recommend using lower sodium broth so you can be in charge of the saltiness!)
3 cups lower sodium vegetable or chicken broth
14.5 oz. can no salt added diced tomatoes
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
1 cup orzo
To the base you can add any combination of vegetables. I find these work well: chopped zucchini, yellow (summer) squash, corn (frozen is fine but if you have leftover corn on the cob, slice it off and throw it in! SO good), tomatoes, fresh spinach, celery, carrots, green beans, asparagus – pretty much anything that floats your boat! Leftover cooked veggies, fresh or frozen are all invited to this party. Chop veggies into bite-size pieces.
In a large pot set on medium heat, swirl a little olive oil and saute the onion, garlic, and zucchini, yellow squash, celery, and tomatoes, if adding, for about 5 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the broth and diced tomatoes, as well as corn, green beans, asparagus, carrots, and/or the kitchen sink. (If your veggies are already cooked, add them to the soup for the last 30 minutes of cooking so they absorb the flavor but don’t break down too much.) Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer for at least a half hour. The longer you simmer the soup, the better the end-result. We always find that it is even tastier the next day. Serve over pasta, if desired (see below), with shaved or grated Parmesan cheese.
If I have a can of cannellini (white) beans I’ll add them in too – they are high in fiber (which binds to fat and helps to flush it from your body), folate (that lowers levels of artery-clogging homocysteine) and iron (which gives you energy)! Beans also make the soup heartier and soak up all the delicious flavor.
Traditional minestrone includes pasta. If you’re making a big batch of minestrone to serve throughout the week, don’t add your pasta to the soup; rather, cook it separately, scoop into a bowl and pour the soup over. The reasoning: pasta breaks down into a mushy mess if left in the soup for several days because it absorbs too much liquid (also the case if you freeze the soup with pasta in it and then reheat). I cook orzo or any small pasta, and keep it in a container in my fridge to serve with the soup. Alphabet pasta would be fun your munchkins!