I tend to go through food phases (apparently having never outgrown them), and lately I have been in one of my frequent “soup” phases. I’ve been sticking with favourites like Greek lentil soup and Black bean & sweetcorn soup, but last night I had a hankering for minestrone.
This is a great hearty soup loaded with veggies, beans and pasta that is a meal in itself. A bit of crusty baguette goes nicely on the side. I like to add a couple of tablespoons of red lentils, because I really like the way that red lentils add body to soup. Fresh basil added when serving lends a nice flavour pop.
The type of veggies can be varied to suit… try green beans instead of peas, or add a bit of spinach. If using beans, add them at the start with the carrots and potato; for spinach, add during the last minute or so. I like my veggies diced fairly small, but if big chunks are your thing, feel free to do it that way and adjust cooking time as needed.
The type of beans can be varied as well; I used small white beans, but you can substitute a different type. Cooking the beans from scratch in my trusty Stanley thermos and using homegrown veggies (well, the courgette and potato, anyway), made this a cheap as well as delicious soup.
- 1 quart (1 litre) vegetable stock or bouillon
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste (tomato puree)
- 3 Tablespoons red lentils
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 small (45g) onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup (250g) finely chopped fresh tomatoes
- 1/4 cup (35g) small pasta shapes
- 1/3 cup (50g) new potatoes in small dice
- 1/3 cup (50g) peeled carrots in small dice
- 1/3 cup (35g) celery in small dice
- 3/4 cup (100g) zucchini (courgette), in small dice
- 1/3 cup (50g) fresh or frozen green peas
- 14 oz (400g) can white beans, such as navy or cannellini, drained and rinsed*
- salt to taste
- 1/4 cup minced fresh basil
Combine vegetable stock and tomato puree (tomato paste) in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add red lentils, cover and lower heat to keep at a gentle boil. Cook for 20 minutes until lentils are soft.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a heavy skillet (I use cast iron) over medium-low heat and saute onion for five minutes. Add garlic and continue to saute for another minute. Next add tomatoes and cook until tomatoes begin to break down and form a puree. Add this mixture to the simmering vegetable stock (it’s okay to add it even if the lentils haven’t yet cooked for 20 minutes).
Whilst the vegetables are sauteeing, bring a medium pot of water to the boil. Add about a tablespoon of salt, then add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
When the lentils are soft, start adding the veggies. First add potatoes, carrots and celery and cook for two minutes. Then add courgette (zucchini) and cook for another four minutes. Add peas and continue to cook for an additional four minutes, or until veggies are tender.
Add cooked pasta and beans and heat through. Add salt to taste.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with fresh minced basil.