This is the best/easiest recipe I have found for homemade minestrone soup.
I discovered the original recipe in a cookbook called “Beyond Macaroni and Cheese” that I bought at a Mother’s of Preschoolers (MOPS) Convention that I attended when my kids were very young (a season that almost feels like another lifetime now).
It is filled with wonderful recipes that my kids would eat during the very picky early childhood years. And it has many wonderful tips and ideas for cooking with young children, not just for them.
The original recipe uses canned and condensed soups, which I have nearly eliminated from my cooking in recent years, and so I have adapted this recipe to use mostly fresh ingredients.
This recipe multiplies easily, which makes it a great dish to serve to a crowd on a cold night. It is also very adaptable to the dietary needs of the people you are serving, omitting the pasta to make it gluten-free or adding protein for a hearty meal. A bowl of this soup is comfort food at is best (as homemade soup should be!) – healthy and deeply satisfying, especially when served with fresh bread.
THE BEST MINESTRONE SOUP
- 4 slices thick sliced bacon, finely chopped
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 1 cup carrots, chopped
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 1 Tablespoon fresh basil leaves torn into small pieces
- 2 cups beef broth (I prefer using “Better Than Bouillon” when a recipe calls for beef and chicken broth or stock. I always have a jar of both in my fridge.)
- 1 (15 oz) can of white beans, rinsed
- 1 (15 oz) can of red kidney beans, rinsed
- 1 (14 oz) can of crushed tomatoes, with juices
- 1 (15 oz) can of Italian stewed tomatoes, with juices
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 cup of small tube macaroni (any small pasta will work, and you can omit the pasta for a gluten-free option. But if you omit the pasta, also omit the added 2 cups of water.)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 cup red cabbage, cut into long, thin shreds
- 1 cup zucchini, large cubes
- 2 cups rotisserie chicken meat, cut into bite-sized chunks OR 2 cups sweet Italian sausage, casings removed, browned, and crumbled. (OPTIONAL, this soup is delicious with or without meat)
- freshly grated Parmesan
- In a large pot, brown bacon. Remove from pot and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
- Add onion and celery to the pot until translucent and soft.
- Add carrots, garlic, and basil; cook briefly until mixed well.
- Add bacon, beef broth, soups, beans, tomatoes, sugar, salt & pepper.
- Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat; simmer for 15 minutes.
- Add 2 cups of water, macaroni, cabbage and zucchini. Cook 10 minutes more or until pasta is al dente and vegetables are tender. Stir occasionally.
- Serve with Parmesan cheese for garnish.