Chunky Garden Minestrone

It never fails with vegetable gardens that they seem to explode all at once. One day you’re just hoping for the first tomato to turn red or the first yellow squash to finally grow long enough to pick. Next thing you know, you’re faced with tons and tons of vegetables, and are running out of creative ways to cook them just to manage the onslaught.

Soup is probably the easiest way to clean out your fridge of all those vegetables that have been building up over the past few days. Especially when you make a gigantic pot to take in your lunch all week long (and part of the next week…) That’s what happened when I started throwing this soup together. It just kept growing and growing until I had way too much. No worries, though. I love vegetable soup, especially minestrone.

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I love, love, love minestrone. Probably because I love fresh vegetables. While this isn’t a traditional minestrone recipe, it makes them the star of this soup. It’s like late summer in a bowl. Actually, minestrone didn’t have a set recipe to begin with anyway. It was a peasant dish that was just a way of using up what was growing fresh in the garden, mixed with some beans and pasta to round it out. In that sense, I guess this really is a traditional recipe.

Chunky Garden Minestrone (8-10 generous servings)

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 small sweet pepper, chopped
  • 1 small summer squash, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes
  • 2 handfuls of kale, chopped
  • 2 quarts of vegetable or chicken stock (I used 1 of each)
  • 1 cup dried small pasta such as macaroni or orecchiette
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1 large potato
  • 2 Tb fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat and add the onion and carrots. Saute for a few minutes until the onion softens and begins to turn translucent. Add the garlic and peppers and saute a few minutes longer. Add the squash, diced tomatoes and kale, and give it a good stir to mix everything together. Add the stock, parsley and thyme, and bring the pot up to a simmer. Add the lentils and potato. Stir well, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add the pasta. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then check the doneness of the pasta, lentils and potato.  The pasta may need just a couple minutes longer, but don’t cook it completely to al dente. It will continue to cook for a few minutes in the hot stock. Remove from heat. Garnish with more parsley or freshly grated parmesan.

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This is one of those soups that the flavor seems to get better after it is leftover. It makes a huge pot, but it’s so healthy, it’s okay to have a big ol’ bowl of it. I used lentils instead of the the more traditional kidney beans or white beans for minestrone, mostly because that’s what I had handy, and they cook much quicker. You would have to cook it over a few hours if you used dried cannellini beans. Lentils are done in 20 minutes or so. And it would be a shame to cook this soup to mush with all these fresh veggies. It’s actually a great way to get your daily allowance of vegetables, and the lentils add some protein and fiber to keep you full. It’s a tasty way to use all those vegetables that are piling up for your brown bag lunch.

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