Italian Minestrone Soup

 

This hearty minestrone is easy to make and totally worth the effort.
The recipe calls for seasonal vegetables and affordable pantry ingredients you can find in any local grocery store, making it budget friendly. Like an Italian minestrone soup, this recipe is loaded with vegetables, beans, spinach and ditalini pasta. The soup packs great for lunch, and tastes even better the next day. You can make this dish dairy free, gluten-free and vegan friendly. Just see the following  Cook’s Notes.  This recipe calls for about 24 servings, so just know that it also freezes and defrosts well too. It is extra nice to have on hand in the freezer on during those days when you feel like being a lazy cook in the kitchen, especially during the winter months.

Serves 24

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 cup of small diced pancetta bacon
2 peeled and small diced yellow onions
4 finely minced cloves of garlic
2 thinly sliced leeks, optional
4 medium diced stalks of celery
4 peeled and sliced carrots
1 peeled and medium diced turnip
1 peeled and medium diced parsnip
½ small diced bulb of fennel core removed, optional
3 peeled and large diced russet potatoes
Three 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes in juice
Three 15-ounce cans of drained cannellini beans
128 ounces of chicken stock
3 parmesan cheese rinds (See Cook’s Notes)
2 cups of frozen peas
2 cups baby spinach, chopped kale or chopped collard greens
juice of 1 lemon
2 pounds of cooked and cooled ditalini pasta (See Cook’s Notes)
Salt, to taste
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese and fresh oregano and rosemary sprigs, for garnish

 

Directions:
In a very large pot or stockpot over medium heat add in the pancetta and cook until browned and crispy. Set aside the pancetta lardons.

Add in the onions, garlic, leeks, celery, carrots, turnip, parsnips and fennel to the pot and sauté for 10 to 12 minutes.

Add in the potatoes, tomatoes, beans, stock and cheese rinds and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Add the peas, spinach, lemon juice, cooked pancetta, salt, and pepper.

To serve, ladle into bowl and garnish with parmesan, oregano and rosemary, if desired.

 

Cook’s Notes:
Minestrone soup is subject to change based on what you have and what’s in season. This minestrone soup recipe may look completely different in the summer since things like zucchini, yellow squash and squash peak in are that season. For the Spring, you might want to use peas, green beans and leeks for the soup. As for autumn seasonal vegetables, potatoes turnips, butternut squash, also work for this recipe. Basically, whatever vegetables you have on hand will work in this recipe. Left over vegetables will also work in a pinch too.

Grains or Pasta: Italian minestrone soup can also use things like farro or cous cous as the grain or pasta in the soup, such as orecchiette, elbow or small shell pasta. To make this soup gluten free, you can also substitute your favorite sturdy gluten-free noodle, such as DeLallo’s Whole-Grain Rice Shells.

Parmesan Cheese: The Parmesan cheese rind is not a necessity, but it will add some delicious umami flavors to the soup. You can add grated Parmesan to the soup as a substitute, or shredded Parmesan can be added as a garnish.

However, if you want to make the soup dairy free and vegan friendly, do not use Parmesan cheese or the pancetta. Most Parmesans are not technically vegetarian because they contain animal rennet. As a reliable substitute, Whole Foods 365 and Bel Gioioso brands do offer vegetarian Parmesan cheese, and both will work really well in this recipe.

How to Reheat: To reheat the minestrone soup simply add your desired portion to a small sauce pot and heat over low heat until hot. You can also simply add your desired portion to microwave safe bowl and heat for 2:30 stirring after 1:15.

How to Store: Minestrone soup will hold well in the refrigerator covered up for up to 5 days. It will also freeze well covered for up to 3 months. Simply pull it out as you need it and reheat following the directions above.

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In the Spotlight: Peas

peas

Reaching their peak season during Spring, peas can offer. An impressive nutrition profile that is so ofteh overlooked.

Did you know that a half cup serving of  shelled peas can supply an excellent source of Vitamin C, a good source. Of Vitamin A, plus four grams of fiber and plant based protein.

All varieties of peas, including English green peas, snow and sugar peas are versatile and can serve as a main ingredient in stir- frys, salads, pasta, spreads and soups.

Green Peas

Peas-English-garden

The most common type of green peas include the English or garden peas, which are vibrant green and plump with pods that contain upbtobten precious round green seeds.

This variety is best eaten fresh. You should choose fresh garden peas thatcare small to medium in size because they will be the sweetest. When preparing them, just remove and discard the pods before eating them. When using them in pasta, soup or grain dishes, add peas during the last few minutes of cooking to maintain the beautiful green color.

For more traditional dishes, you can pair green peas with potatoes, carrots, onions and herbs like mint, basil and parsley.

In addition to being fresh, green peas are also available are year round in the canned or frozen forms. Try using them in making a mock gacumole with thr usual avocado, tomatoes, onions, cilantro and lime juice for the right touch of acidity.

 

Snow Peas

Peas-Snow,-Organic

The snow pea (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum) is a variety of pea eaten whole in its pod while still unripe. The name mangetout (French for “eat all”) can apply both to snow peas and to snap peas.

Snow peas are botanically known as Pisum satvium and are considered to be a hardy annual. sugar-ann-snap-sweet-peaThe entire pod is edible while unripe and typically grows up to 6″ in length. Produce on a climbing vine, Snow peas offer a sweet, tender flavor that has mild green notes.

Also known as Chinese peas, snow peas are flat with small seeds having a pleasant herbaceous flavor.

Did you know that the name mangetout (French for “eat all”) can apply both to snow peas and to snap peas and this vegetable has been cultivated since the 19th century in Europe?

Another fun fact is that Austrian scientist and monk Gregor Mendel  used peas which he called vi_a_201Pisum saccharatum” in his famous experiments demonstrating the heritable nature of specific traits, though this Latin name might not refer to the same varieties identified with modern snow peas. Imagine that, the entire study of genetics is based on the humble pea!

pea_traits2

When selecting snow peas, look for smooth pods with bright green skins and are at least 3 inches in length. The whole pod is edible abr contains the most fiber of all the varieties of peas currently being cultivated.

The best method for cooking snow peas is by steaming. In preparing snow peas before stir-frying, sauteeing or simmering, trim the stem end and remove the string along the side of the pod. You can refrigerate the peas in a kraft paper bag or a perforated plastic bag and use within three days.

Sugar Snap Peas

sugarsnappeas

Bright, crisp and naturally sweet, sugar snap peas are a cross between garden peas and snow peas.

Sugar Snap peas are bright green with thick walls that encase a row of petite green peas. The pea pod itself is crisp, juicy and fresh tasting and the peas, tender with a sweet pea flavor. The entirety of the pod, both the shell and peas are edible. In addition the vine, leaves and flowers or pea tendrils the Sugar Snap pea grows on is edible as well.

Sugar Snap peas provide a good source of vitamins A, C, potassium, iron, riboflavin and thiamine.

When selecting sugar snap peas, look for firm pods that do not bend and snap easily. In terms of storing this variety, refrigerate in a tightly sealed plastic bag for up to five days.

Sugar Snap peas are a versatile pea and can be enjoyed both raw and cooked. Serve whole on crudites trays or as an appetizer. Their crunchy texture makes them fun for snacking or just dipping in hummus or paired with cream based dips and cheese. Snap in half and add to an array of salads. Stringless Sugar Snap peas can be utilized whole and added to stir-fries, soups and sautés or even braised alongside beef or duck.

Sources:
Weis Super Markets Healthy Bites Magazine, March/April 2018. “Ripe Now: Peas”. Retrieved 20 March 2018. http://healthybites.weismarkets.com/18Mar/Page-4

Specialty Produce (2018). “Stringless Sugar Snap Peas”. Retrieved 26 March 2018. http://www.specialtyproduce.com/produce/Stringless_Sugar_Snap_Peas_410


Chicken Noodle Soup with Herbs and Petite Green Peas

Chicken soup with egg noodles and petite peas

Photo Credit: Sun Basket, 2017