Craving minestrone has been problematic for me; I can't find any place that makes what I want out of a minestrone, and my previous attempts at it have been less than stellar. On one of those doldrummy days when you have no energy to do anything useful, I spent an afternoon running a chameleon eye over various versions of minestrone recipes. There were a few similarities between them, but most of them said, "Use your seasonal veggies or what you have in the fridge." Okay. Good advice.
A few days later, I could stand it no more. I made an experimental batch of minestrone.
It was to be a tiny batch, as I had no idea whether or not it would taste good. So the only thing I really measured were the cannellini beans, of which I set out a half-can. Half a small can.
To begin, I chopped a yellow onion, got a hefty handful of it, finely diced. Then celery, also finely diced, same amount. Then two baby carrots. Yes, only two BABY carrots -- I hate cooked carrots and only used them because they are part of a classic mirepoix with which to begin a soup base.
Got to have garlic. Two large cloves went through the garlic press, their remainders in the press scraped out and chopped finely. I smelled the mixture sizzling in a bit of olive oil ... it was insipid. Bernie happened to be nearby, making a pepper slaw, so I whined for a tiny jalapeno, which he obligingly chopped into near-dust. (Is there any doubt why I love him and his generous heart?) That went into the pot as well. Eyeing the discarded tops of his green bell peppers, I liberated one of them and minced it up and threw it in. Sniff, sniff. Yes. That was something like what I wanted.
Almost all the recipes I had looked at wanted cans of crushed whole tomatoes and/or tomato paste. No. I cut up about two cups of fresh tomatoes and threw them in to play with the fragrant veggies.
Next up, the cannellini beans (with some of their liquid). Then a fistful of spinach, which was languishing in the fridge, chopped into tiny bits. And then a peeled and chopped side of overgrown zucchini. (If you've ever planted zucchini, you know how they can grow out of hand over night.)
A couple shakes of oregano, and two shakes of McCormick's Perfect Pinch Italian seasoning. (Something about the sage in it.)
And then -- please don't tell your Italian granny about this -- two cups of water mixed with two teaspoons Better Than Bouillon Beef Base. Once that had come to a simmer, I added three ounces Barilla Mini-Farfalle dried pasta.
Then turned it down to low heat, and walked away and let it do magic things to the mixture and the aroma in the kitchen for about half an hour.
Taste it, taste it, pinch of salt, shake of pepper.
A little bit more water because the pasta has soaked up so much broth.
A baguette with butter on the side, a generous shake of grated pecorino romano over the top of the soup, and voila -- just what I'd been hankering for ... for years.
A common recommendation is to let the soup cool, put it away, and then savor its blend of flavors the next day. I can agree with that.
With bread, it can be a lovely lunch; accompanied by a sandwich, a delicious dinner. But for me, it's just about the best breakfast food in the world.