We are smack dab in the middle of Lent, and this has been by far my favorite meatless meal for Fridays. I've been eating the leftovers shamelessly throughout this past week. Sadly, soup season is coming to an end here in Okinawa, it's simply becoming too hot to curl up on the couch with a hot bowl of soup- you know, not like Okinawa was "cold" to begin with. This soup makes me want to eat it year round though.There are so many different recipes for minestrone out there, and I formulated this one based off of many, however my main inspiration was Tabatchnick's version. It's sold frozen in single serving 100 calorie pouches. Of course, in my 2 years here, I've been able to find it at the commissary just once. Frustration has forced me to make my own version, and I think I got pretty close, if I don't say so myself! And it's totally vegetarian and you can tweak just about any of the ingredients to your taste without affecting the overall character of the soup (just don't dump 3 tablespoons of salt in and expect it to taste good....)
My only requirement is that you serve this with "dippers." Bread. Crackers. Anything, but I beg of you- let it be bready and salty, and I will shout with glee if it's also buttery. Just sayin'.
Vegetarian Minestrone Soup
a Butter Than Toast original
makes about 4-5 coffemug fulls, with a little bit leftover
1 small white onion, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
1.5 cups frozen mixed vegetables (I despise lima beans, so mine is without)
*if you choose to use fresh, use about 1/4 cup each chopped carrots, peas, corn and green beans
3-4 tablespoons tomato paste- more if you like
1 can crushed or diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 can kidney or navy beans, your choice- or mix them!
1 cup fresh spinach, torn into pieces
4-5 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup dried short cut pasta (I used 1 cup of frozen cheese tortellini)
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning (thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano, sage)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (about 1 small fresh clove, diced)
salt and pepper to taste
In a dutch oven, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Once it shimmers in the pan, add the onion and celery. If you are using fresh carrots, add them with the onion and celery. Stir occasionally- you don't want the onion to brown, just turn translucent and the carrots/celery to soften slightly. This should take about 7 minutes on medium heat. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes and beans, stir to warm through. Add vegetable stock and pasta, bring to boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 8 minutes so the pasta cooks. Once it is al dente, add the spinach and other vegetables. If using frozen, this is the time to put them all in. Add seasonings, stirring to incorporate all ingredients. Taste at this point, decide if you want to add salt, pepper, more stock or more tomato paste. Once you get the seasonings to your liking, turn off the heat and cover, let sit for about 5 minutes to let all the flavors marry. Ladle into bowls or mugs and serve hot.
This soup freezes beautifully in order to save leftovers!