As I said in a recent post, I have been experimenting with building flavor in long-cooking soups by making my own broths, sauteing components separately and then cooking them together for a long time to really marry the flavors. This worked really well when I made a Wild Mushroom Soup for Thanksgiving. But what if you don’t have enough time to do all that?
We eat soup at least once a week. Soup is a great meal for so many reasons. It’s filling, satisfying and comforting, but low in fat and calories. It’s also an easy way to sneak in lots of vegetables. I most often like to make a hearty, chunky soup because I can use up whatever is hanging around in my refrigerator and complement it with ingredients from my pantry. Here is my go-to recipe for hearty soup.
I learned a couple of things from James Peterson’s Essentials of Cooking about adding flavor to quick soups that I wanted to share with you. I tried these simple tips when making a hearty Minestrone con Pesto, and the results were spectacular, even with store-bought broth and canned pantry ingredients.
The first tip is to cook some finely chopped bacon or prosciutto in the pot in which you are making the soup. I chop a couple of pieces of bacon small and fry it in a little olive oil until crisp. This adds a smoky, salty component to the soup, but the addition of a little decadent fat also deepens the overall flavor.
The second tip is to stir in some pesto at the end of cooking. This gives the soup a bright hit of fresh herbal flavor, plus some fat and some pungency from the raw garlic. If you made pesto during the summer and froze it, you can just drop in a cube or two and let the warmth of the soup melt it. I grow a lot of herbs, so I made several varieties of pesto (basil, parsley, etc.), which I can use throughout the winter to add zing to my soups.
I made this Minestrone with only ingredients that I had on hand. You can substitute freely with whatever’s in your crisper and pantry. Minestrone is one of those soups that can be whatever you want it to be. I think the only requirement is that it contain some kind of beans. The French version of this same soup is called Soupe au Pistou.
Minestrone con Pesto
Time to make: ~30 minutes
Yields: 2 servings (can be doubled)
What you need:
- 2 slices bacon, minced
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
- 1 can red beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ lb. green beans, trimmed and snapped in half
- 2 tbsp. pesto
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parmesan for garnish
Feel free to substitute as you like for any of the ingredients listed here. For example, you can use white beans or even chickpeas and add any other vegetables you like in place of the carrots and green beans.
- Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high.
- Add the bacon, onion and carrots, and saute until the bacon is crisp and the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
- Add the broth, tomatoes, beans and vegetables, and season with salt and pepper.
- Bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in the pesto.
- To serve, garnish with Parmesan, if desired.
Leftovers reheat or freeze well.
Here’s another tip: When you finish a wedge of Parmesan cheese, put the rind in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Then when you make a big pot of minestrone, add the rind while the soup is simmering to add even more flavor. Just remove the rind before serving.