We had a cold snap here in Nashville last week, where the temperature got down to 7-degrees. That’s cold for Nashville. Heck, that’s cold for anywhere! When the wind is blowing and it takes 20 minutes just to warm up your car, there is nothing that warms you quite like homemade soup.
Minestrone is a bit different than other soups. If you look up recipes for Chicken Noodle Soup, you will find the same base of ingredients. Not the case with Minestrone – it has multiple personalities. It can be one thing one day and something different the next. Two things most minestrones contain: beans and an assortment of vegetables.
Why? Minestrone was traditionally made from whatever vegetables were in season. Back in the days before the Roman Empire, a typical Italian’s diet was vegetarian by necessity, consisting of locally grown vegetables and a flour-based porridge cooked in salt water. Mix these together, and viola – minestrone is born.
After the Romans conquered Italy, trade routes opened up, and meat became more readily available. Stocks were used in the thick, filling, inexpensive vegetable soups, which became a staple in the local folks’ diets. Even today in Italy, minestrone is considered a dish in the style of cooking known as “cucina povera,” or “poor kitchen.” This gives a nod to the soup’s rustic, rural roots.
Now for the important stuff. How to make the easiest and most delicious Minestrone soup.
Note: Times on this recipe assume the celery and onion are bought already prepped (diced and cut). If you choose to do this yourself, add 10-15 minutes of prep time.
- 1 lb baby carrots
- 2 c diced onion (1 large or 2 small)
- 1 ½ c chopped celery (3 stalks)
- 1 fresh stalk rosemary
- 4-5 sprigs rosemary
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 diced fennel bulb
- 2 ¼ lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubes
- 5-6 cloves minced garlic
- Small can diced tomatoes (14.6 oz)
- 2 c (about 15 oz) tomato sauce
- 6 c chicken broth
- 1 Tbsp oregano
- 1 can cannellini beans
- 1 can red kidney beans
- ½ lb frozen French cut green beans
- Combine all ingredients, carrots through oregano, in a crockpot (with a crockpot liner, if you have it, for easy clean up).
- Put crockpot on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours.
- Rinse and drain cannellini and kidney beans. Add rinsed beans and green beans to crockpot during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
- Serve with fresh bread.
Put onions, celery, and carrots in a slow cooker (with a crockpot liner for easy clean-up.) I used one of my time-saving tips and bought onions and celery from my market, already chopped and cut, and stored them in airtight containers (onions with a paper towel at the bottom and celery with water to keep from drying out.)
Tie together herbs with butchers twine (if you have it). Throw all of the herbs into the crockpot.
Add a diced fennel bulb. If you haven’t used fennel before, don’t be afraid! Fennel has a reputation for tasting and smelling like anise (licorice); but when it’s cooked, it has a nice, fresh, spring-like flavor. Delicious in this soup! Take the top stalks off and dice the fennel bulb like you would an onion. Add to crockpot.
And cubed skinless, boneless, chicken breasts.
Then the garlic, canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, bay leaves, and salt.
Turn the crockpot to high for 3-4 hours or low for 6-8 hours.
Add beans and green beans during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
Ahhhhhh – winter comfort food!