Olive Garden Style Minestrone Soup
This thick Italian soup boasts plenty of vegetables and often either rice or pasta as well. Beans, celery, onion, tomatoes, bouillon, and carrots are popular ingredients. Because Italian cooks make minestrone soup out of whatever is to hand, there is no set recipe for it as such. Instead, use seasonal vegetables, a meat-based broth such as chicken bouillon, and pasta or rice if you wish.
This soup has more of a history than you might think. Minestrone dates back before the time of the Roman Empire, when the local diet consisted largely of vegetables like garlic, beans, carrots, mushrooms, cabbage, and lentils. When Rome conquered Italy in the 2nd century BC, a lot of new food products flooded into the capital and people had more choices especially with meat which they could use as stock for soups as well as finding other preparations for it. Potatoes and tomatoes were not introduced from the Americas until the middle of the 1500s though, so the soup was quite different back then, especially without the tomatoes.
‘Minestra’ is the Italian word for a chunky soup (as opposed to pureed soups for example) and ‘minestrare’ means to serve, so you can see how this dish got its name. This soup varies a lot across Italy because there is no fixed recipe for it, so some are light with boiled-down veggies and others are dense and thick. Some might contain meat while others have a vegetable stock instead of a meat one and are therefore vegetarian-friendly. If you do not have all the ingredients to make the soup, take a look at what is in your vegetable drawer and make your own version of minestrone. After all, that is how Italian cooks do it. You might even like to add pesto and extra herbs to make ‘minestrone alla Genovese’ which is the typical minestrone soup made in the Liguria region.
- 42½ oz (a small can and a big one)diced tomatoes in juice
- 2 diced carrots
- 3½ oz sliced pepperoni
- 2 minced garlic cloves
- 1 diced onion
- ½ teaspoon dried basil
- 1 chopped zucchini
- 3 cups water
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
- 32 oz can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 10 oz thawed chopped spinach, squeezed dry
- 1¼ cups cooked elbow macaroni (optional)
- Shredded parmesan, to serve
- Put the un-drained tomatoes, carrots, pepperoni, garlic, onion, basil, zucchini, water, oregano, and bouillon granules in a 5 quart crockpot.
- Cover and cook for 7 hours on low, or until the vegetables are tender.
- The smaller you have diced them, the faster they should cook, so check after 6 hours if they are finely diced.
- Stir in the beans and spinach, as well as the pasta if using.
- Cover and cook for another 30 minutes or until heated through.
- Serve hot, with parmesan cheese if liked, as well as bread on the side.
The great thing about minestrone soup is there is no set recipe, so take a look through your vegetable drawer and grab anything at or beyond its prime, then add the ingredients to your crockpot along with some bouillon, tomatoes, garlic, beans, and other things, and let the soup gently cook until the vegetables are tender and the flavor is rich. You can also add some macaroni if you want, or some rice if you prefer. Add these cooked so they just need to heat through. The finished soup is delicious served hot with some crusty bread.
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