I love a hearty soup on these cooler fall days which we are finally experiencing here in south Louisiana. Soup seems to take the chill out of the air and warm a person’s soul. So, today I’m making a variation of “Minestrone Soup” by including several seasonal autumn vegetables. I associate “Minestrone Soup” with Italian cuisine, although actually the soup precedes modern Italian culture and can be traced back to ancient Roman days. It was considered to be “poor man’s soup” where any and all leftovers were thrown into the soup pot. My soup certainly has lots of vegetables and beans which makes makes for a very colorful and flavorful soup. In my recipe, all the ingredients blend together — it is not overly rich, spicy or “heavy.” The soup is easy to make, and is a great way to increase the vegetables in your meals.
What is Minestrone Soup?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Minestrone is “a rich thick vegetable soup usually with dried beans and pasta (such as macaroni or vermicelli).” Common vegetable ingredients include onions, garlic, celery, carrots and tomatoes. Dried beans such as white beans are added along with pasta. The soup can be made with either vegetable broth for a vegetarian version or with some sort of chicken or beef stock. Many recipes which I reviewed on the internet also included cabbage or spinach and summer squash such as zucchini.
There really isn’t a “set” recipe for this soup. You can add whatever vegetable and bean ingredients which you have on hand. Since it is the fall season, I am adding a local Louisiana sweet potato in place of carrots and cauliflower in place of zucchini squash. Sweet potatoes do have a “sweet” taste and fit right in along with the other ingredients. And, well, I can never eat too much cauliflower. For seasonings, I added oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. If you really want a “Cajun” version, increase the “hot” in the soup by sprinkling in some red pepper flakes. (And that’s not a bad idea.) Although I used vegetable broth, you can easily substitute chicken stock or broth which gives a more traditional “soup” flavor.
My soup has three types of beans: I used “white” beans (really Great Northern beans) which are traditionally added to Minestrone Soup and, of course, I added Louisiana red kidney beans. Green beans are everyone’s favorite, so let’s add them too. (I used frozen green beans rather than fresh ones, since the peak season for fresh green beans has past.) For pasta, I added orzo pasta. These tiny noodles don’t overwhelm the other ingredients and they work well when added to soups.
Making the recipe
This is an easy soup to make. I get started by chopping up all the vegetable ingredients. It helps to all dice the vegetable ingredients up into bite size pieces which are approximately the same size. My medium-sized sweet potato yielded two cups of peeled and diced pieces. I used half of the head of cauliflower in this recipe. (It is easy to find another way to use the other half cauliflower–I made a cauliflower & potato soup.)
For this soup recipe I used canned beans rather than dried ones. Dried beans can take three or four hours to cook. This is a “quick and easy” soup recipe and canned beans are perfect. Remember to drain the cans of white beans and red kidney beans as you don’t need the thick bean broth in the soup or the salt. Studies have shown that this doesn’t wash out the vitamins/minerals. (And, this really has been the subject of research studies.)
To make the soup, sauté the onions, celery and garlic in a little oil until they are wilted. Stir in the sweet potato chunks, cauliflower florets, broth, diced tomatoes with juice and seasonings and cook about 10 minutes additional. When the sweet potatoes begin to soften, add in the beans and dried pasta noodles. Cook 10 more minutes. Stir in the spinach. I used frozen spinach (as it was less expensive) or you could substitute fresh spinach. Stir and heat the soup. You may need to add additional vegetable broth or water to thin the soup. I added two cups additional broth.
Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings, if needed. Now would be a good time to sprinkle on just a few flakes of red peppers. (A few flakes go a long way.)
This soup is flavorful and tasty — it is not too, too “rich.” It is a great way to increase vegetables your meals. The sweet potatoes, spinach and cauliflower are three vegetables which are rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, so this soup is packed with nutritional value, too. Although you can substitute different types of beans and vegetables — I like my “Louisiana” variation with sweet potatoes and red kidney beans. It makes a large soup pot, I’ll freeze some for “quick” meals later in the winter. I hope you enjoy this recipe!
Minestrone Soup with a Louisiana Twist
- 2 Tbsp oil
- 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups, chopped)
- 3 celery stocks with leaves, chopped (about t 1 cup chopped)
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 medium-large sized sweet potato, peeled and diced (yield 2 cups diced)
- 1/2 cauliflower, broken into small florets (about 2 cups)
- 32-oz container vegetable stock (or substitute chicken stock)
- 1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes with juice
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried ground oregano
- 1 tsp salt (optional)
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 16-oz bag frozen cut green beans, defrosted
- 1 (16 oz) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained*
- 1 (16 oz) Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained*
- 1/2 cup dried orzo pasta
- 1/2 bag (16 oz bag) frozen leaf spinach
- 2 cups additional water or broth, if needed
- 5 -6 red pepper flakes, optional
Instructions and Steps:
- Add oil to a large stock pot and heat to medium on stove.
- Add chopped onion and celery. Stir and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes until wilted.
- Add minced garlic clove and cook an additional minute or two.
- Add diced sweet potato and cauliflower florets and stir.
- Add vegetable broth, petite diced tomatoes with juice and seasonings — thyme, oregano, salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes until sweet potato begins to soften.
- Add green beans, rinsed and drained red kidney beans and Great Northern beans and orzo pasta. Return to a boil, stirring occasionally. Then reduce heat again, cooking an additional 10 minutes.
- Stir in frozen leaf spinach and heat. If the soup is too thick, add additional water or broth.
- Taste soup. Add additional salt or pepper if needed. If desired, stir in a few red pepper flakes.
*Exact size and ounces in the soup cans may vary slightly.