Hearty & Healthy: Late-Summer Minestrone

A bout of gray, rainy and downright bone-chilling cold weather recently sent me scurrying into the kitchen faster than a coiffured damsel seeking shelter. With each day looking bleaker than the last, it was obvious that if I was to get truly warmed, it would require spearheading a kitchen project that involved plenty of soul food.

Fortunately, my quest to find the BEST zucchini bread was under way that week, with many batches being tested to ultimately declare a winner and a runner-up. That project kept the kitchen toasty, but it wasn’t quite the satisfying, nourishing meal that I was looking for. Imagine my surprise when I realized I was craving soup. Hot, wholesome SOUP! In August, no less.

Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that I was singing the praises of cold soups? Had the summer really slipped away that quickly? Apparently it had, so I made a massive batch of this late-harvest minestrone using up all the gorgeous late-summer vegetables I had on hand.

What’s all the fuss over minestrone? For one thing, it uses up all those summer vegetables that are cheap and prolific right now. It can also easily adapt to suit your families’ tastes since its rustic style lends itself easily to accommodating your favorite vegetables.

There is no ‘standard’ minestrone recipe; it changes from family to family and season to season. Some add pasta, others pile in the cabbage, and I’ve occasionally added a can of black-eyed beans. I always add a handful or two of whole-wheat spaghetti to increase the appeal of the soup to little palates, plus it makes for a heartier meal.

Take this recipe, try it out, but feel free to adapt it to suit your tastes — and feature the best produce that you have around.

Helpful tips for the best minestrone

  • Use the best produce you can get your hands on, it is August after all! It’s tempting to clean out the crisper drawer of the refrigerator and throw in all the shrived bits, but if you choose the sweetest carrots, young zucchini and fresh-picked basil, your soup will surpass any you’ve ever had before!
  • Sure, ripe tomatoes are ideal, but in a pinch you could use good quality canned tomatoes.
  • Don’t worry about perfect -or even tidy- cuts for your vegetables. This is minestrone, home cooking at its finest, and there’s no one to impress.
  • To quickly break the spaghetti into smaller pieces, first roll it in a clean tea towel, then, holding both ends firmly, run it down the edge of the counter, bending it slightly as you go. It will shatter into many little pieces and the towel will contain the messy little pieces.
  • If made with vegetable stock, this minestrone can be a vegetarian option for dinner, however, a nice chunk of slab bacon can add a greater depth of flavor to the soup. Dice it and add it in step one below while sautéing the vegetables and remember that a little goes a long way.

Aimée’s Late-Summer Minestrone

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 young carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 cup celery, chopped thinly
  • 2 small zucchini, green or yellow, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 ears fresh corn, shucked and cut off the cob
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 quart chicken or vegetable stock, plus 2 cups water
  • 4 large, ripe tomatoes chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 125 g. (1/4 regular package) whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup chopped basil leaves, loosely packed plus more for garnish
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving (optional)

1. Put 3 tablespoons oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion, garlic, carrots, celery, rosemary and zucchini. Cook, stirring, until vegetables soften somewhat, 5 minutes or so.

2. Add fresh corn and beans. Cook, stirring, for a minute or two, then add stock, water and chopped tomatoes; bring to a boil, then lower heat so mixture bubbles gently. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are quite soft and tomatoes broken up, about 10 minutes.

3. Add 1/2 cup basil and whole-wheat spaghetti. Cook another 5 to 7 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

To serve: ladle into bowls and drizzle with olive oil. Tear a few basil leaves and drop them in. Serve with fresh Parmesan, if desired.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings. Or about 1.5 liters of soup.

Freezing Directions

  1. Make the soup through step two, but stop before step three where the pasta is added. Season the soup and set aside to cool. (Don’t worry if the vegetables are still slightly al-dente.)
  2. Portion the soup into freezer-friendly containers (I often use clean mason jars, leaving a good inch of head space), cover and label.
  3. Freeze for up to three months.

To re-heat: Thaw soup overnight in the refrigerator, then reheat gently in a pot. Add a cup of broth or water (as some may have been absorbed over time) and bring to a boil. Add pasta and basil and cook until pasta is al-dente. Serve.

Tomato or cream, smooth or chunky; what makes up your favorite soup?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. Yummy, Aimee! It was so cool last night that we all immediately thought of having soup for dinner tonight. So we’re doing a corn and cheese chowder because it’s what we have on hand. I love soup more than any other food and don’t have a preference for how it’s prepared. I’ll eat anything and French onion is my favourite!

  2. i love the colours of the soup! minnestrone is one of my favourites. yum

  3. wow — this looks delicious!

  4. This looks so delicious with all of my favorite ingredients!

  5. I am loving soups right now too. Produce is just so abundant that soups are the perfect catalyst to bring it all together. Last night I made a vegetable soup with a bit of bacon, tons of garlic, and thyme. It was so good I think I’ll have to share the recipe next week.

  6. This looks sooooo good – I can’t wait to try it! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  7. looks. so. yummy. !!!

  8. Thank you for the reminder about this soup. I have some veges that need to be used up ASAP.

    Now I we could just have some cooler temperatures to truly enjoy the soup.

  9. I love minestrone and also pureed soups like squash/pumpkin or sweet potato: http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/soup/recipe-sweet-potato-soup-with-miso-and-ginger-019709 is made several times each winter here.

  10. I am sick today and my boyfriend brought me some soup. This looks like a really good one to make this evening! Thanks for sharing, Aimee!

  11. I made this tonight and it was absolutely delicious! Tomorrow is going to be considerably cooler than the past few days has been and I’m looking forward to enjoying this soup all weekend long!

  12. I love this (of course!) – great tips as well!

  13. I’m thinking this just might be the recipe to get me back into the kitchen! Looks delicious and the fuzzy feeling it gives me is even better!

  14. That looks amazing. Thanks so much for sharing, I’ll give this a go 🙂

  15. This is the perfect weather here in Edmonton to have soup. I have never made my own minestrone and I have decided, this is going to be the first recipe I try!!

  16. Personally, I like a chunky soup…thick and/or chunky, but that doesn’t stop me from eating a great brothy soup. Your minestrone looks great – vibrant colors and definitely would qualify as chunky! Lots of yummy veggies…I’m thinking even my kids would eat that with a nice chunk of bread to soak it up with. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  17. I made this for dinner tonight and it was fabulous! I too, like chucky soup, so I added chopped kale and more carrots. I also used WW rotinelli and lemon-basil, as that’s all I had on hand. The slight lemon flavor really doubled the veggies natural summery taste. This is a keeper! Thanks!

  18. Would it be okay to add some Cayenne pepper to it though? My family loves something spicy.

  19. What a healthy soup and I think this is just so filling! I will be adding this to my keto-friendly soup. Thank you for sharing!

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