Monday Minestrone Not Like Olive Garden

Old Italian Proverb
“Soup does seven things. It takes away hunger & thirst, fills the stomach, cleans the teeth, makes you sleep, makes you slim, and puts color on your cheeks”

ip-minestrone-2I think that one of Michael’s favorite things to do is to go to the Olive Garden for all the soup, salad, and breadsticks you can eat which is usually 1 bowl of pasta Fagioli, salad, and two breadsticks so with that in mind I planned checking off 4 Monday to do’s, on the list finish some leftovers, veggie bin dive, finish the Mediterranean meatballs that I made for dinner the other night and come up with another pot luck contribution for the cooking club.

This week I chose Mark Bittman and his “Customizable Soups” and a minestrone sounds perfect…google the Pinterest chart for Bittman Customizable Soups or for the NY Times original article.  Sorry, the link takes up too much space, but once you get there it is a great article for soup lovers and loads of options…worth a look.  Bittman’s basics are listed.

I normally do not put ground beef in my soups, but I don’t think small seasoned meatballs fall into the just plain ground beef category.  I have loads of veggies as well as fresh herbs for the soup, but no homemade broth ready so I’ll use Knorr concentrated beef and vegetable (one of each) stock this time.  The stock calls for 3+1/2 cups of water each, but I cut it to 6 cups total.

So once again I began with the Instant pot and cooking some dried beans under pressure for 20 minutes, for 1 cup of dried beans pour in 4 cups of water, two sprigs of thyme, and a large bay leaf.  Cover the pot, seal and close vent and manually set for 20 minutes.  Quick-release, drain the beans, remove thyme stems and bay leaf then add all of your chosen soup ingredients.   * Note:  I did sauté the meatballs until brown and not cooked through and added to the pot with the remaining ingredients for the last 8-10 minutes of cooking time.
* Note: Today, I added favorite chopped fresh herbs, oregano, basil thyme leaves, parsley, marjoram, and 2 cloves fresh minced garlic.

Keep in mind that anything goes just remember to add a tomato product of choice for minestrone canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, or maybe a little tomato paste.  Today I was short on canned tomatoes with the exception of a can of fire-roasted and while they might have been good in the soup, my taste buds were not in the mood for a smoky taste so I diced a couple of fresh tomatoes, added 1 tablespoon tomato paste and 2 tablespoons sun-dried tomato bruschetta for a deep tomato flavor.

I precook whatever pasta that I am adding to the soup for one simple reason I can add as much or as little to a bowl of soup and then it doesn’t have to sit in any leftover soup where it will suck up all the broth and balloon to mushiness.  Spoon in the desired amount of pasta to each bowl and ladle in hot soup, serve with extra grated cheese and pinches of red pepper flakes.

*Today Vegetable add-ins, green beans, sliced carrots, diced celery, navy beans diced onions, fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomato bruschetta, tomato paste meatballs.