Sometimes the most obvious things are those that get most overlooked. Like, as a travel company that focuses on Italy, we put together our list of our favorite classic Italian recipes. But when we put that list together we forgot one majorly popular recipe: minestrone! Well, here you are: my personal attempt to right thjat wrong.
First up, you may be wondering a few basic things about minestrone soup like: how the heck do you pronounce minestrone? how do you make minestrone soup from scratch? what is the difference between vegetable soup and minestrone? and is the minestrone soup at Olive Garden authentic?
Minestrone soup -- pronounced minh-eh-stroh-neh, by the way -- is much like chicken soup in the United States, minestrone is one of those dishes that has endless recipes with variations in different Italian regions and from family to family. At its most basic minestrone -- which literally translates to "big soup" -- is a brothy soup loaded with vegetables and it's really simple to make it from scratch.
Like so many Italian recipes the technique is simple but a few key tips and quality ingredients make it go from ho hum to exceptional. While the minestrone soup at Olive Garden is by all means a minestrone, I find it to be too tomatoe-y, too acidic, and salty for my personal taste.
To be honest, this is pretty much a recipe I fabricated over the years. It's a variation on a classic Itailan Spring soup recipe. Spring soups are recipes that don't seem to get nearly enough love IMO. But, if you have my cookbook, you've probably come across the Fava Bean and Farro Soup, which is one of my all-time favorite Spring soups. The only issue is that as a traditional Italian recipe and, tbh, it's kinda involved to make.
Over the years I've morphed that recipe and came up with another version of it that I'm calling a Minestrone Verde. To be totally clear, this is not a recipe you'll come across when you travel to Italy. There is technically a soup called Minestrone Verde from Italy's Puglia region but it's more of a winter soup whereas this is a Spring take on classic Minestrone that I've created here.
The problem with a lot of minestrone recipes is that they're quick and easy but it means the soup is seriously bland. The key to a delicious minestrone comes down to quality of ingredients and a few key tips. First things first, to make your minestorne really tasty, you want to focus on making the broth as flavorful as possible.
In this recipe, you add parsley stems and cheese rinds to make a silky, complex parsley parmesan broth. It couldn't be simpler to make and is a great way to use up leftover parsley and cheese rinds! Also, if you want even more flavor and you like slow roasted garlic as much as I do, you could use the garlic-infused oil and a few of the confit garlic cloves in place of the standard garlic.
Once you have the broth made, the soup is super simple: add in baby potatoes, and loads of vegetables, and that's it! This a recipe we love to turn to when we want food that's 100% Spring but still comforting. Translation: this soup recipe perfect for rainy Spring days. Over the years, I've made it with asparagus and snap peas, but this combination os zucchini, peas, and potatoes has just enough of the classic Minestrone ingredients to make it feel like a welcome update.
No matter how you make it promise you'll stir in the pistachio parsley gremolata because it's bursting with flavor and make the dish go from great to incredible.
Okay, now it's time to stock up your panty with all the Italian essential ingredients, then try your hand at making this and then share your creation with us by tagging @saltandwind and #swsociety on social!
stems reserved for soup
or raw almonds
smashed and divided
ends trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
quartered lengthwise then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
or 2 cups frozen lima beans
Make The Gremolata: Combine all the parsley leaves (reserve the stems for the soup), all the pistachios or almonds, 3 crushed garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, the lemon juice and a splash of water in a food processor or blender. Process until smooth then transfer to a bowl. Stir in lemon zest, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add enough water to make the mixture loose like a pesto.
The gremolata can be made up to 2 days ahead. Place in a airtight container, place plastic wrap against the surface and cover.
Blanch The Fava Beans: Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil, fill a bowl halfway with ice water, and shell the fava beans. When the water is ready, drop the beans into the water, and boil for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to ice water until cool. Drain then remove the fava skins by splitting open the skin and squeezing out the bean. Meanwhile, start the soup.
If you can't find fresh fava beans, you can use frozen lima beans and add them to the soup at the same time as the peas.
Make The Minestrone Broth: Heat oil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. When it shimmers, add onion and garlic, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add all the broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Tie parsley stems together with kitchen string and add to pot with parmesan rind (reserve rest of cheese for garnish) and potatoes. Simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes.
Use vegetarian broth if you want to make this vegetarian or vegan.
Add the zucchini and haricots verts and cook until the beans are bright green and just tender, about 10 minutes. Add fava beans and peas, and cook until the peas and beans are bright green, about 2 minutes. Discard parsley and cheese rind and add more salt and black pepper to taste.
Omit the cheese if you want to make this vegan or dairy free.
Serve The Minestrone Soup: Divide soup into bowls, top with a dollop of gremolata and shavings of cheese, and serve with bread, additional cheese, and gremolata passed on the side. Stir in the gremolata just before eating.
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