Vegetarian Minestrone

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m trying to cook more vegetarian cuisine. Since soups are perfect for this time of year, I’m experimenting with different kinds of vegetable soup. Minestrone is a family favorite, but normally there’s some sort of pork (sausage, pancetta, bacon, etc.) involved. However, this recipe is meat free, hearty, and absolutely delicious. It’s a great way to use up leftover vegetables. Just throw everything you have into the pot; spinach can be used instead of kale, shallots instead of onions, and Brussels sprouts instead of broccoli. This soup only gets better with time: I like to make a big batch and enjoy it all week. If you have a parmesan rind lying around, add it to the soup with the broth. It will provide an immense richness to the dish.

Vegetarian Minestrone

1/4 cup olive oil
1 half of a large onion, minced
1 celery stalk, minced
1 carrot, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bell pepper, minced
1 zucchini, minced
1/2 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup chopped button mushrooms
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup red wine
5-6 stalks kale, stems removed, rinsed and dried, coarsely chopped
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes and their juice
8 cups vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (14 oz) can white cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup small pasta (I used mini shells)
2 tablespoons minced parsley
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, optional for serving

  1. In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. When it’s hot, add the onion, celery, and carrots. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook, stirring the vegetables occasionally, so that they don’t burn, for 7 minutes.
  2. Add the bell pepper, zucchini, and broccoli. Stir to combine everything. Cook until the broccoli turns a vibrant green, 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms and garlic. Season the vegetables again with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Continue to cook the vegetables, stirring often, for 8-10 minutes. The vegetables will start to break down and caramelize.
  4. Increase the heat to high and add the wine. Stir, scrapping up any brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan. Boil until all of the wine has just about evaporated.
  5. Add the kale and stir into the vegetables, wilting for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the tomatoes, broth, bay leaves, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for 12 minutes.
  7. Raise the heat to medium high. When the soup is almost at a boil, add 2/3 of the beans to the pot. Squeeze the other 1/3 of the beans in your hands to mash before adding to the soup. Add the pasta and cook according to the manufacture’s directions, 8-10 minutes.
  8. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings to your liking, adding more salt, pepper, or red pepper flakes. Ladle into bowls, sprinkle with parsley, and freshly grated parmesan cheese, if using, and enjoy immediately.

Serves 4-6.

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