Could it possibly be summer here and all we want is soup these days? Specifically, we want this spring minestrone for lunch and dinner! Well, maybe not everyone in the Savoring Italy kitchen wants it all the time, but I sure do!! And it's not really summer here, but the cooler spring days have now turned into rainy and steamy summer-like days.
It is so easy to think of all these different and creative things to make for dinner. But thinking of and actually making a different and creative dinner are two really different things. The reality hits you when it's the end of a long day and you haven't got any thing made yet how far away the creative and fabulous dinner could be.
Then along comes a minestrone. I'm not kidding. A minestrone could come together super easily with simple things you will find in the vegetables you bought for the week. I always start with the carrots, onions and celery that I always have around. And then I like to mix it up with what I have that's fresh and hopefully, seasonal and delicious. If we were in Italy, we would be using what my father-in-law just picked from his garden that morning or evening and that my mother-in-law rinsed off. I wish I had the time and the success to keep a vegetable garden going here. When I was growing up, my dad had cuccuzze (Sicilian eggplant) in our backyard, along with tomatoes. The zucchini were as tall as my brother and I! They were amazing. He was a farmer, so he knew exactly what he was doing, even dealing with our weak Florida dirt that could never compare to the mineral rich soil he had in Sicily. They flourished and they were babied by him every year.
We did try a few times to grow they in our garden, and it seems that even with my adding the right soil, I don't have what it takes to keep it going. I do have success with my herbs and with my orchids, but the vegetables haven't quite worked out yet here. One time my mother-in-law planted zucchini seeds before they left to go back to Italy. They had been visiting us for about a month. I happily called to tell her that the flowers were sprouting and the plant was growing all along my fence. The leaves were huge and I was picking about 6 flowers a day. And that was it! Really, nothing else exciting to report to her on the zucchini growing. She was pleading with me to check every evening and pull off the slugs. Leave cups of beer around the plants for the slugs to die in. She told me what do with the flowers and the small beginnings of zucchini that were growing. They never grew more than the beginnings of zucchini. They died and so did my hope to being a real gardener. It was so disappointing to me, and possibly, more disappointing to her, because we got so close!!
some notes on the recipe:
I used the vegetables that I had on hand and that I love. I made another one the same week and added asparagus instead of the peas. The point is, you can mix up this soup and make it to your taste adding whatever spring vegetables you encounter in your market exploring or what you (lucky you!)have growing in your garden. You could use dandelion or Swiss chard instead of spinach. I usually have baby spinach around (fresh or frozen)and my kids don't mind it at all in a soup, so that's usually my choice green leaf vegetable. I used orzo because I had some on hand and have been wanting to use it up in a soup. This is vegan, because I used vegetable broth.
Prep Time: approx 10 minutes
Cook Time: approx 30 minutes
Ingredients (6 servings)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 3 garlic, smashed
- 2 leeks, washed and thinly sliced (use an onion if you don't have leeks)
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 4 carrots, peeled and chopped
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
- 1 potato, peeled and cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and chopped tomato
- 4-6 cups stock or water (I used vegetable stock, you could use chicken)
- 2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 cup peas (I used frozen from fresh that I had in my freezer)
- 1 cup baby fresh baby spinach
- 1 cup Italian parsley, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, leeks, rosemary,carrots, celery, red pepper flakes, and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the potato and tomatoes and cook 2 more minutes; season with salt and pepper.
Add stock or water and bring to a simmer (start with 4 or 5 cups of stock. Depending on how thick you want your minestrone, add another cup if you want it less thick). Cook, covered, for 10 minutes.
If you are adding orzo or a broken pieces of a thin spaghetti, bring soup to a boil and add them in now. When the pasta is almost done, add in the zucchini and peas. If you aren't adding pasta to the soup, keep the soup on a simmer and add in the zucchini and peas and cook for about 10 minutes (or until the zucchini are tender).
If you did add the pasta, cook until the pasta is al dente (it will keep cooking in the soup because it is very hot, so check to make sure it doesn't become too mushy).
Add spinach and parsley during the last 2 minutes of cooking time. Adjust seasonings and serve immediately.