Growing up, I was convinced that my mom had the best recipes. Her food was better than anyone’s. These days, I’ve decided that it’s because it was mostly homemade. We may not have been the most well-off at times, but my mom took the groceries and made magic.
This minestrone is a perfect example. It was a quick and delicious dinner for any night of the week. I remember eating my helping and then getting a bowlful of only broth. (Guess what my daughter’s favorite part is, too) It was the perfect cold-weather meal. When I left home, this was one of the many recipes I demanded from my mother. But then, I thought I had to follow the recipe to the letter. During college, I stressed over getting the vermicelli and the fresh snap peas and mushrooms. How could I achieve this delectable soup without including every ingredient my mother did?
However, when I became married and poor (don’t those two always go hand in hand at first?), we could barely afford the bacon, much less all those fancy ingredients. So, I had to ~gasp!~ improvise.
And I’ve found that improvisation is what this soup is made for. I think my mother knew the secret of this soup that I had yet to learn: it’s the broth. It doesn’t really matter what goes into the pot, as long as the basic broth components are there. Since these were simple pantry items, that was the easiest part. I mean, as long as you can operate a can-opener.
Since the broth is the main flavor, you can add and subtract at will with this recipe. And it serves any number. My mom’s original recipe serves 4, but I remember that whole pot of soup feeding our family of 6 with a bowl leftover in the fridge. Simply put, to feed more, add more vegetables or double the broth. Great recipe for a recession!
These days, I put just about anything and everything into my minestrone. Tonight I doubled it and added cannellini (sp?) beans and potatoes. And I didn’t put in snap peas OR vermicelli. (I’m all rebellious like that)
Here’s the original recipe, but please, pretty please, make this your own. You can make it with all fresh vegetables or completely from those dried and canned vegetables in your food storage. As long as you keep the tomatoes, chicken broth, and spices, you’re golden.
Minestrone (serves 4)
2 slices bacon, cut in thin strips (I usually add as much as I have leftover from a recent breakfast)
1 large onion, finely chopped (fine or rough, your choice)
1/4 lb. mushrooms, sliced (canned, dried, or frozen OK)
1 clove garlic, minced (I added more)
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced (or roughly chopped)
1 large can (49 1/2 oz.) chicken broth
1 can (1 lb.) tomatoes (go ahead, add an extra small can. you’ll thank me)
1 tsp. each salt and basil (I NEVER add this much salt to anything. merely a dash will do you here)
1/4 tsp. thyme and pepper
4 oz. vermicelli (or whatever type you like/have)
1/2 lb. snap peas or edible pea pods, ends and strings removed
grated Parmesan cheese
In soup pot, cook bacon over medium heat until it browns; remove from pot. To bacon grease remaining, add onion, mushrooms, garlic, and carrots. Cook until the onion is soft and the potato is slightly softened. Stir often to keep the garlic from burning. Add broth, tomatoes in liquid (coarsely chop them in the can with kitchen shears), salt, basil, thyme, and pepper. Bring to boiling and cover. Reduce the heat and simmer 15 minutes. Bring soup to boiling and add the pasta (if using). Cook, uncovered, until the pasta is nearly tender, about 10 minutes. Add peas and boil for 2 minutes. Serve with cheese on top and well-buttered, crusty bread on the side. We used sandwich bread, so we won’t judge.
Oh! I almost forgot. A great tip when you’re making soup and want to get lunch for the next day taken care of: if there’s enough broth, add 1 1/2 c. to 1 c. couscous. Gives wonderful flavor to the couscous without you doing any more work. Unless your husband comes home and eats your couscous. Then you have to make more. But, you also get to make up! 😉