A hearty minestrone (or minestra) soup recipe that you can throw together quickly featuring greens, beans, zucchini, tomatoes and red bell pepper.
Rachael Ray’s Minestra has been the backbone of my go-to minestrone soup recipe for many years. Yet, the first time I made it, I felt it was lacking some critical ingredients. I added carrots, celery, tomatoes, zucchini, roasted red bell pepper, rosemary and red pepper flakes. That’s why I call mine a minestrone, not a minestra. With all the additional chopping, I don’t think it qualifies as a 30-minute meal, but it’s a flavorful, comforting soup that’s perfect for a cold night.
What’s the difference between minestra and minestrone? I wondered too. Here’s what I learned. Minestra means soup in Italian. The word minestrone is made up of minestra (soup) and the suffix -one, an augmentative suffix, per Wikipedia. Minestrone literally means the big soup, the one with many ingredients. Since my soup has many more ingredients than Rachael’s, and tastes like a big soup, I call it a minestrone.
The original recipe doesn’t call for much time on the stove, and I’ve left those instructions here in case you’re short on time. But I prefer to relax and let the pot sit on the stove a little longer. It’s a flexible recipe so add or subtract whatever you like – vegetables, herbs, pesto, potatoes, pasta or rice. I dice the vegetables, but lots of folks like them in bigger pieces.
You’ll need a deep, large, heavy pot or dutch oven.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 1 celery rib, chopped
- 4 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/8 pound pancetta, bacon or sausage, chopped
- 2 pounds escarole, kale or spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
- 2 (14-ounce) cans of cannellini or great northern beans, drained
- 1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained
- 2 zucchini, chopped
- Roasted red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 quart chicken broth
- 1 sprig rosemary, chopped
- A couple pinches ground nutmeg
- Red pepper flakes, to taste
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Grated or shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, for topping
In a large pot over moderate heat, saute onion, carrots, celery, garlic and pancetta in oil for 3 minutes.
Add the greens and wilt them down to fit in the pot. Add beans, tomatoes, zucchini, roasted pepper, broth, rosemary, nutmeg, red pepper, salt and black pepper. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 12 minutes, or until greens are softened and no longer bitter.
You can keep it simmering gently on the stove for much longer. I would, I think it helps the flavor, but it’s good to go after only 15 minutes, per Rachael.
Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese on top, and a chunk of hearty bread and a glass of red wine on the side.
Original recipe: Minestra, Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals, Food Network