I love soup, especially brothy soups full of veggies and interesting flavors. Those kinds of soups fill me up without making me feel heavy. It’s comfort food without all the guilt!

I remember the day the issue of Everyday Food with this recipe came in the mail, and that’s because I was salivating over the minestrone soup. I’m always excited when EF arrives, and I generally sit down and tear through it right away, making a mental catalogue of all the things I need to make IMMEDIATELY.  When I thumbed over to the recipe for this soup, I thought: Oh. Oh my. Yes. It’s chock full of veggies and flavors, and it comes with a full page of alternative ingredients. Don’t want to use a potato? Maybe butternut squash would suit your fancy. Not a fan of cabbage? Try kale or Swiss chard! I was impressed with all the options and couldn’t wait to play around with the various combinations.

Now, months and months later, I finally got around to making it. My only regret: that I waited so long to bring this delicousness into my life. The soup is robust and satisfying. We definitely didn’t miss meat with this meal. The red pepper flakes give it just a touch of spiciness to keep things interesting.

And the toasts. Oh, the toasts. I got the idea from Tyler Florence’s Ultimate cookbook, from his recipe for minestrone soup (which looks awesome, by the way). They’re super simple and oh-so-tasty. Slices of baguette + butter + a healthy dose of freshly grated parmesan cheese, popped under the broiler for a few minutes. They make a great accompaniment to the soup, and I imagine they would to a lot of other dishes as well. We used sesame semolina for the first loaf, and a baguette for the second (what can I say, this makes a lot of soup so we needed a lot of bread. And the cheese toasts are so good, you can’t have just one.) and I think I liked the semolina better – the nuttiness of the sesame seeds really complimented the nuttiness of the parmesan cheese.

Classic Minestrone

From Everyday Food, October 2008

Serves 6

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

2 T olive oil, plus more for serving (optional)

1 medium red onion chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 large celery stalk, diced

1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary, or 1/4 teaspoon dried

1 can (14.5 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes, drained and finely chopped

1 large potato, peeled and diced

1/4 head Savoy or green cabbage (1/2 pound, cored and thinly sliced

1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths

1 garlic clove, minced (optional)

1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, plus torn leaves for serving (optional)

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

In a lage pot, heat oil over medium. Add onion, carrots, celery, red pepper flakes, rosemary, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to turn golden, 5 to 8 minutes.

Add tomatoes; cook until some of the liquid evaporates, 1 minutes. Add potato, cabbage, cannellini beans, and 7 cups water; bring to a boil. Stir in green beans.

Reduce to a simmer, and cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; stir in garlic, if using, and basil. Serve sprinkled with Parmesan and, if using, more oil, if desired.

Alternatives:

Replace green beans with 2 cups diced zucchini or summer squash

Replace potato with 1/2 cups peeled, seeded, and cubed butternut squash

As an extra vegetable, use 1 1/2 cups frozen peas (add to soup after 15 minutes of simmering in step 3)

Instead of cabbage: kale, tough stems removed and thinly sliced; or escarole, trimmed and thinly sliced, or Swiss chard, trimmed and thinly sliced

Instead of cannellini beans, try a 15 ounce can of another variety, drained and rinsed: Kidney beans, chick peas, or pinto beans

What I did:

I used butternut squash instead of a potato, zucchini and summer squash instead of green beans, Swiss chard instead of cabbage. I also used 4 cups of chicken broth and three cups of water rather than 7 cups of water (7 cups of water just sounded awfully… watery). And we thought one can of cannellini beans was not enough, so the second night I added a can of kidney beans, and I really like having two types of beans in the soup.

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