I’m getting my second dose of the vaccine tomorrow. And, while there is very little to suggest I’ll have a reaction that will qualify as much worse than mild inconvenience, I’m finding myself with the need to prepare for the worst anyway. I’ve cleared my calendar. I’ve cleaned. I’ve made sure we’re stocked up on Tylenol, ibuprofen, and hot tea. And friends, I’ve made soup.
I know. It’s a bit cliche, isn’t it?
And yet it’s exactly what I know I’ll be craving if I’m feeling bad – a clear-brothed, salty, chunky soup with enough heft that I feel like I’ve eaten something but not enough that it feels like a chore, you know? Oh! and noodles. It has to have noodles.
This minestrone, from Martha Rose Shulman, seemed perfect – so I made it up yesterday morning and stashed it in the fridge.
It’s a risk, trying a new recipe in a situation like this, much like bringing an untested dish to a pot-luck. I knew I wanted something comforting, and I knew that the soup should hit close to the mark, but because I’m pathologically incapable of just sticking to recipes I know I like, I had to branch out and try something new.
And honestly? It feels a little weird to base my impressions of this soup on a few tastes rather than a full meal, but I think it’s a little lackluster. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good soup, and it will serve its purpose well, but I think the problem is basically me. I prefer my vegetable soups with a strong tomato base, something I thought the simmered-down can in the recipe would provide.
I was wrong.
To my palate the broth tastes like a mistake, the tomato flavor playing support to a somewhat muddy confusion of vegetable and bean. It’s not bad, but I can’t get past the fact that my brain sees vegetable soup and then doesn’t get the taste it’s expecting. The vegetables are well cooked, and the broth is balanced and perfectly seasoned, but it’s not the soup my brain wants.
Maybe this will change with time, and the minestrone will mellow into something more my taste as it matures in the fridge over the next few days. Maybe, when I eat this as an actual meal, and not just a few spoonfuls here and there to adjust flavor, my opinions will change. Or maybe I need to get over myself and enjoy the meal for what it is, and not what I (perhaps foolishly) want it to be. I took a risk, and it didn’t quite go the way I expected – and that’s awesome! I tried something new, learned something about both myself and my cooking, and now I know that when I need comfort soup, what I really want is tomato broth. And noodles. Definitely more noodles.
What I ended up making was not what I was hoping for, but no matter what, I think future me will be happy there is soup.
Summer Vegetable Minestrone
Yield: 6-8 servings Time: about 1.5 hours Source: adapted, barely, from Martha Rose Shulman for the New York TImes
The original recipe calls for blanching the green beans and stirring them in right at the end. This will keep them crisp and vibrant, but the #aesthetic isn’t enough to make me want to wash another pot. I just stir them in in the last five minutes of cooking – they stay crisp-tender but lose a bit of vibrancy. To me, the trade-off is worth it.
Weirdly, though, I’m willing to do dishes to avoid mushy pasta. If, like me, you’re planning to make this ahead, I recommend boiling your pasta separately, draining and rinsing it in cold water, and tossing it with olive oil before storing it in the fridge. Then, just add the amount of pasta you want before reheating – it’ll keep things from getting soggy.
Parmesan rind tends to be a defining flavor in minestrone, but I didn’t really notice it much here. If you have one, add it, but I don’t think you’ll be missing much if you leave it out.
- 1 parmesan rind
- 1 bay leaf, dried
- 3 sprigs fresh parsley
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, cut into small dice
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
- 1 celery stalk, cut into small dice
- 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt, plus more to taste
- 4 large cloves, minced
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their liquid
- 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock, mixed with 1 quart of water
- 1 medium turnip, peeled and diced
- 2 medium zucchini, diced
- 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 6 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into one-inch lengths
- 3/4 cup dried small pasta, such as macaroni, pipette, penne, or orecchiette
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons, for garnish
- Freshly grated parmesan, for garnish
Using a piece of kitchen twine, tie the parmesan rind, parsley, thyme, and bay leaf into a secure bundle. Leave the tails of the twine long – this will make it easier to fish out later. Set the bundle aside.
In a large dutch oven, saute the onion, carrots and celery in the oil over medium-low heat until the vegetables are just beginning to soften and the onions are starting to go translucent. Add half a teaspoon of salt, and continue to cook until the onions are just browning around the edges and the carrots and celery are tender, about 5 minutes more. Toss in the garlic, stir until your kitchen smells amazing, then add the tomatoes and all of their juice. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the tomatoes seem a bit jammy and the pan is nearly dry.
Stir in the chicken stock/water mixture, then add the turnip and zucchini. Drop in your herb bundle, then use the long tails of string to tie it to the pot handle (it should still be submerged). Bring the whole mixture to a boil, then drop the heat to low, add two teaspoons of salt, and allow the soup to simmer, covered, for 45 minutes. Once the 45 minutes is up, fish out your herbs.
If you’re planning on eating the soup right away, add your canned beans and pasta and simmer however long your pasta box says it takes to reach al dente, adding the green beans in the last five minutes of the cook time.
If you’re planning to store it, add the canned beans and green beans at the same time. Turn off the heat, and allow to cool completely before storing – there is plenty of heat left in the broth to cook the green beans. Add a handful of cooked pasta before reheating.
Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper before servings. Garnish each bowl with basil and parmesan, as desired.