Earlier this week, I had a nice conversation with my mother about food. One of the foods she happened to mention was “minest,” or what seems to be more commonly known in the cooking blog world as “minestra.” I haven’t had “minest” in years and years, but as soon as she said the word, I practically started drooling. I have fond memories of sitting in my grandparents’ kitchen, waiting for my grandfather to serve up that steaming bowl of soup for lunch. Lots of parmesan cheese for me, please!
When I asked, my mom listed off the various ingredients she uses when she makes her minest…ham bone to flavor the broth, chopped smoked sausage, assorted greens such as collard greens or endive, etc. As my mother described how she makes her soup, I felt I could practically taste it over the phone, and I couldn’t wait to make my own pot soon. However, Steve is both a vegetarian and my big soup eater in the house, so I knew if I made the minestra exactly as mom suggested, he would miss out. So I tried to think of ways to tweak the recipe so that the soup would both recall those childhood memories of mine and still be vegetarian fare.
Below is the recipe for my first attempt. I swapped out the meat-based broth for veggie broth, of course, and traded out the bits of meat for white beans. For greens I went with dandelion greens because there was a huge, beautiful bunch of them at the grocery store, and escarole because it looked good too. Next time I might try kale and bok choy.
The soup got a thumbs up from three out of four family members. Tobin wouldn’t touch it as the only soup he’ll eat is miso.
Vegetarian Minestra recipe
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
32 ounces vegetable broth
1 can cannellini beans, well rinsed
1 can navy beans, well rinsed
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon basil
½ teaspoon parsley
¼ teaspoon rosemary
Dandelion leaves, well washed and roughly chopped
Escarole, well washed and roughly chopped
Parmesan cheese, grated
1) Drizzle some olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot. Sauté onions, carrots, celery, and garlic in the oil for 2-3 minutes, stirring around to keep vegetables from burning.
2) Pour in vegetable broth.
3) Add both cans of rinsed beans and crush some of the beans against the side of the pot with a spoon. This will give a nice texture to your soup.
4) Add salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, basil, parsley, and rosemary. The amounts are just suggestions. Adjust to your particular tastes.
5) Bring soup to a boil and then turn down heat.
6) Shred dandelion leaves and escarole and add a bit at a time to the pot. If you are fond of greens, add lots of both. Cook until greens are softened.
7) Serve with grated parmesan cheese.
1) If you can’t find dandelion or escarole, try other greens such as collard greens, kale, bok choy, etc.
2) For a more filling soup, cook up some small pasta such as ditalini, orzo, elbows, or acini di pepe and add to soup before serving.
3) Serve your soup with a nice salad and some crusty bread. Any leftover, raw greens will be great in the salad.