Today it is cold outside.  And foggy.  And dreary.  While I am anxious for the spring-like weather to finally appear (and stay), I am grateful for these last few times I will be able to make a big pot of soup before the warmer weather comes and it’s too hot to eat soup.  For lunch today, I had a bowl of Minestrone.  This one of my favorite soups, second only to a simple cream of tomato.  I may like this soup as much as I do because it is tomato based, not broth-based like many of the recipes I’ve tried.  A bonus for me with this recipe is that I could also hand my son a bowl and let him go to town.  Most of the soup wound up on the floor, but he was especially intrigued by the noodles.  And I was thrilled to have finally found some alphabet noodles!

What I love about this soup is that I don’t know if I have ever tasted the same bowl in front of me.  My mother made it differently than my Nonnie who made it differently from her sister-in-law.  In Italy, if you were to ever see the word “minestrone” on a menu based on the etymology of the word, you would expect to see a hearty stew.  It is argued that the minestrone was created from the need to use up leftovers, while others believe that it was based on what was local and in season.  Typically speaking, I have a base recipe and then add or omit ingredients based on what I have on hand or what looks good to me at the time.  Because I use so many beans in my recipe, it is the perfect vegetarian soup to feed my husband.  And if he doesn’t make a comment about the absence of meat, I am in business!

My Minestrone:

– 4 cups tomato juice

– 2 cups water

– 2 cups beef broth (or vegetable broth)

– 1 1/2 cups cooked garbanzo beans

– 2 cups frozen, french-cut green beans

– 1 cup small pasta ( I used alphabet pasta, but if you were to use say, an elbow noodle you’d want more)

– 1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans

– 3 stalks of celery, sliced

– 2 carrots, sliced into rounds

– 1 small onion, diced

– 3 cloves garlic, minced

– salt and pepper to taste

The first thing is to find a stockpot that will comfortably fit 2 quarts of liquid, plus all the veggies.  I put in all the liquids and the fresh veggies that will take the longest to cook and the spices.  Bring the pot to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.  Then reduce to a simmer and cook until the carrots are tender.  Add in the pasta and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente.  Add in all the beans, warm through and serve with a nice, crusty bread.