Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Minestrone Soup is a Once in a Lifetime Experience

I always feel a little apprehensive when I post a recipe like this minestrone soup. It’s the type of dish I never make the same way twice, and the fear is that someone will watch and assume that this is my “official” version.

You don’t need a recipe for minestrone, just like you don’t need a recipe for a great sandwich, or an epic salad. To make minestrone soup precisely same way every time, using a very specific list of ingredients and amounts, is to trample on the soul of this Italian classic.

Having said all that, what if you happen to make it so incredibly delicious one time that you want to experience the exact same shuddering soupgasm in the future? That seems like a perfectly sound reason for why you should write down the recipe…except cooking food doesn’t work that way.

Your perception of how a recipe tastes involves so many factors above and far beyond the list of ingredients. Remember that time you made that super awesome whatever, and it was so perfect, and then you made it again, exactly the same way, but somehow it just didn’t taste as great? This is why.

So, I hope you give this amazing minestrone recipe a try soon…but only once. Enjoy!


Ingredients:
3 oz pancetta
2 tbsp olive oil
1 diced onion
1 cup diced celery
4 minced garlic cloves
4 cups chicken broth
1 (28-oz) can plum tomatoes, crushed fine
2 cups water, plus more as needed
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dried Italian herb blend (mine was thyme, oregano, rosemary, basil)
red pepper flakes to taste
1 cup freshly shucked cranberry beans (aka shelling beans)
2 or 3 cups chopped cabbage
1 (15-oz) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 bunch swiss chard, chopped
2/3 cup raw ditalini pasta
extra virgin olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and fresh Italian parsley to garnish the top

50 comments:

drtabo said...

Very nice. I have a side question, when I make minestrone and pop my leftovers in the fridge, it thickens up a huge deal. I assume, it's due to the starch from the pasta.. I hate adding water, as it un-concentrates my flavor.. Suppose I could cook the pasta in a smaller pot with only the soup I plan on eating. Any advice?

Anonymous said...

demo the boneless turkey you made!
the thanksgiving spirits demand it! :)

subgirl said...

YES YES YES THANK YOU!!! A minimal dairy recipe! Making this (which I toooootally love not only minestrone but the kinda "wing it" inspirational recipe).

Now, more! :D One cannot live on soop alone!

I love Food Wishes!! (I'm in Berkeley, can I stalk you now?)

John said...

You put in cabbage in the video, but I don't see it in the ingredient list here. How much did you use?

KPeff said...

@drtabo - I cook the pasta separately when I do pasta soups like this. I cook it to less then al dente in salted water, drain it, rinse it to cool, and toss it with a little olive oil to keep it from clumping up when I store it in the fridge.

And when I'm ready to make leftovers, I slowly bring some soup up to a simmer on the stove, put the leftover pasta in the bottom of my serving bowls, and ladle the hot soup over it.

Chef John said...

I know a lot of people like to cook the pasta separately but i don't, as I think the starch is an important aspect to the soup. I enjoy the thicker "stew" the next day since it's like having another dish, or just thin it with more broth. There 's no wrong answer.

GLBT and Friends said...

Hey Chef John, I have never, ever heard a Italian cook use "dried Italian herbs" in a recipe. What is that anyway? Oregano, flat parsley, dried basil? Sounds sketchy and probably varies dramatically from one brand to the next.
Did that sound snobbish? wasn't meant to. sorry if so.

Anonymous said...

what is a "vegetable crisper"???!!!!
i have to know!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Chef John, could you roughly tell at the end of the video( i'm taking for the future videos) how much time the whole dish took to make, with preparation, chopping and cutting, from start to finish, because as a rookie cook i can assess when to start with the cooking so it will be done by 5pm as an example, if you could do that it would be great, tnx:D

philogaia said...

I make minestrone fairly often and never the same way twice, the soup depending heavily on what is in the fridge. The one critical ingredient for me is a roughly chopped up Parmesan cheese rind (yes, of course the good stuff.) It gives a creaminess to the soup and the bits turn chewy.

Chef John said...

Really depends, but maybe between 1.5 and 2 hours? Just a guess.

Chef John said...

That's what they call the bottom drawers of the fridge.

Chef John said...

glbt, i think a good cook uses both fresh and dry, as they have advantages depending on the use. For example, dried rosemary works better for a long slow braise, and has a deeper flavor, and then I use a little fresh in the sauce at the end. It's not an either/or thing. Yes, dried Italian herb blends vary (mine are listed below), but that's okay, since it's just minestrone. ;)

emily said...

Hello. I love this recipe! What can I use instead of cranberry beans? I dont know what they are. :p
And if you add other ingredients(carrot etc), at what point do you add them to the pot?

Chef John said...

Any fresh or canned beans will work! You can add any other vegetables when you add the cabbage.

Anonymous said...

This soup looks delicious!! yummy :)...Approximately how many serving does your recipe serve?

Chef John said...

maybe 4 portions?

Anonymous said...

shuddering soupgasm.... effing awesome

Anonymous said...

Hi Chef John,
Recipe sounds awesome but I have a question about your pot, don't have anyone else I can ask, sorry. Mine has a big chip in the bottom so I've stopped using it. It's a bigger chip than yours, do you think it's ok?

Healthy and Homemade said...

I am seriously on the verge of drooling. I've always thought minestrone from the can or in a restaurant was so bland, but THIS! This looks amazing. I can't wait to try =D

Chef John said...

It's just cast iron underneath the enamel, so I believe you can use it.

Anonymous said...

Do you eat your meals all on your own after a video or are there lucky people you share them with?

~Jennifer said...

Made this tonight and it was so yummy! I added carrots, red bells, and used red kidney beans instead of cranberry beans. Thank you for the inspiration!

Ailey said...

MMMMmmmmm I can hardly wait to try this!! I love the lesson about not insisting that a dish be prepared exactly the same way twice. It leaves room for substitutions and flashes of inspiration. For example, I've never seen cranberry beans before but would love to try them sometime. I'll have to check out my local farmers market come spring. However, in the meantime I have white kidney beans so I'll use them.

I just recommended Foodwishes to an employee at my local library this evening. I told her that your videos make me want to cook and somehow inspire confidence in my ability to make tasty food. And it doesn't end with your recipes. I came up with a tasty dish the other nite put together completely from what I already had at home. My 13yo daughter really enjoyed, which is saying something.

Yay!!!!! Foodwishes!!
Ailey/Helen

Chef John said...

Thank you!!

JaAnBe said...

Just made this with shelling beans I'd gotten from my farmer's market and frozen, kale I picked from my garden (it's been through a couple of frosts) and chorizo. Wonderful recipe.

Aaron said...

I made this a few nights ago and it is amazing! Thank you for your blog (I went through a grill cheese "thing" after watching that video of yours).

I substituted cubed chicken breast for beans (I didn't have any beans) and it worked great.

Robin :-) said...

Being vegetarian I'd leave out the bacon and also use vegetable stock instead .. To enhance flavors it would be nice to know if we vegetarians need to use another ingredient as replacement for the bacon. I liked the recipe/cooking overall!

Chef John said...

Sorry, but there is NO vegetarian replacement for the bacon! :-)

Martin said...

Hey Chef John
Thank you very much for this soothing dish. It was a pleasure cooking it but nothing beats finally eating it :)
I added what I had and thus, made a few changes:
• I added Brussels sprouts and cabbage but not Swiss chard
• I only added chipotle beans
• I added some red chili paste
• I added some tomato paste
• I only added smoked bacon
I think that I will add some nice sausages next time because it was missing some meat.

Thank you for posting!

Best regards

Martin, Denmark

katie said...

This video inspired me to make minestrone tonight. I love that you used chard! Too many soup recipes call for spinach but its too delicate I think. Best for soups are chard, kale, or collards. I also added little meat balls into the simmering soup. I like veggie soups to clean out the fridge but after adding a little of this and a little of that I end up with gallons of soup!

recipes said...

I adulation this recipe! What can I use instead of cranberry beans? I dont apperceive what they are.

Chef John said...

any beans will work!

sladka_jesi said...

I made that recipe a week ago...and my family and I adore it!!! It was so delicious... thank you Chef John!!

Bettina Danger said...

I just made this soup and it was fantastic! I added mushrooms because I had some left in the pantry and made fresh garlic bread to go with it. Definitely a hit! THANK YOU! :)

Dave said...

Chef John, I made this today and it is absolutely awesome! Thanks so much for the great video recipes and congrats on the All Recipes deal!

Dave

Another satisfied FoodWishes addict said...

I will NEVER buy canned Minestrone again! This recipe was so easy to make, so forgiving of varied amounts and minor substitutions, and so utterly delicious.

Peeper said...

What ingredient can you substitute for the pancetta?

CenterOfTheFlame said...

The soup is simmering as I type this. It smells great. This is the first time I have ever tried to make Minestrone. I used Kale and a can of White Kidney beans, I had all the other ingredients. I ended up adding much more broth and the soup is doubled and still thick. Would serve at least 8. I also added a few tablespoons of tomato paste as your soup is a much deeper red than mine, yours is still deeper red. Thanks from Kansas City, Missouri.

Chef John said...

You can use bacon, ham, sausage, etc. anything!

Rob Pitingolo said...

Overall this is a good soup and I'm glad I tried it, but there are a few things I think are worth noting.

First, it's probably true that "any canned bean" will work, but don't confuse that with "any bean will work." If you have dried beans, you've got to soak them, boil them, or do whatever you need to do before throwing them in the pot. Otherwise, you might wind up simmering the soup for 4 hours as you wait for the beans to tenderize!

Second, I wonder how crucial the pancetta is to this soup. At my supermarket, that stuff is made expensive ($26 per lb!!!). Maybe I could find it for a more reasonable price at an Italian grocery store, but I feel like ham or bacon would give you more bang for your buck here.

Third, this makes a ton of soup. About 4 full-meal portions or 8 pre-meal portions. If you're a single guy like me, make sure you want to be eating this soup all week before you cook it up.

Thanks, Chef John!

Peeper said...

I note that you have Italian Herbs listed as an ingredient in the Minestrone Soup.

How much Thyme, Oregano, Rosemary, and Basil = Italian Herbs? What is the measurement of each?

Thanks, Chef John!

Chef John said...

No idea, it already mixed! Just use a little a each to taste.

Anonymous said...

I use anchovies instead of bacon as I don't eat any pork product

Anonymous said...

I don't eat any pork products. When a recipe calls for a base of fried bacon I use anchovies. They just
melt in and add smokiness and depth. Not a vegetarian alternative I know!

Suzannah Gordon said...

I am kosher and used imitation bacon bits instead of pancetta. I know they are junky, but they work!

michelle kurilla said...

Great recipe but i wanted to print it out but all you have is the ingredients and not the process in which you use them to create this amazing soup you explain so much in your video that i don't remember and you didn't write it with your ingredients. Michelle

Sandy said...

Chef John, you've done it again. I followed your advice to not follow the recipe, and I substituted pre-made, refrigerated spinach tortellini for the ditalini pasta. Perhaps that makes me a terrible Italian, but who cares? The soup was delicious and filling, and just the right thing for an unseasonably cold Texas evening.

Peter Sices said...

"Before you get the wet, fry the dry" said a famous chef (LOL).

Here however, we are adding the Italian herbs to the liquid.

what's the principle here, if any?
thanks.

Tunalou said...

Thank You again, Chef John, for showing how easy it can be to make good food. I enjoy all you're videos, and your sense of humor, but 'shuddering soupgasm' is a new one on me--- I can't wait to try it.