One of my favorite soups, aside from the classic chicken noodle, is minestrone. I love it because it’s what I have come to think of as an anything soup. You can put practically anything into it and it will be good. A big pot of that in the fridge and I am a happy girl. And one who doesn’t have to cook every day as well! I like my minestrone of the hearty side and so my favorite time to make it is when I have a nice piece of leftover roasted ham around. It’s a great way to use up the unsliced parts of one of those spiral hams. Are they what would be considered a guilty pleasure? I know they’re not so good for you but I do love them.
In Italian, minestrone means “the big soup.” Perfect, no? There is no classic minestrone recipe, it is typically made with whatever vegetables are in season and often contains bits and pieces that are leftover in the fridge. I would say minestrone is the perfect soup to make if you don’t know that much about cooking. It’s hard to mess up minestrone. Some argue that a bean broth is the traditional flavor base to minestrone as tomatoes weren’t introduced until the 1600’s but I am sticking to the idea that there is no traditional recipe and every cook has their own version. Besides the aforementioned ham, my minestrone contains a whole bunch of kale, cannelini and kidney beans, zucchini and green beans in a tomato and chicken broth. Parmesan rinds are a must in my minestrone, always save your Parmesan rinds!
The Loose Recipe
2 cups of chopped ham from a spiral ham (you could also use bacon, prosciutto or keep the pork out altogether and make a vegetarian version)
1 or 2 medium to large onions, diced
5 to 6 carrots, chopped
3 to 5 celery stalks, chopped
8 to 10 cloves of garlic, smashed and then roughly chopped
8 to 12 cups of chicken broth, stock or vegetable stock if you’re doing the veg version
1 can diced tomatoes
2 zucchini, chopped
1 to 2 cups green beans, chopped into fourths
a Parmesan rind
a few sprigs of rosemary
1 can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch of kale, washed, stems removed and ripped into bite sized pieces
Salt, pepper and olive oil
Heat a large soup pot with just a tiny bit of olive oil in it if you are using the ham. When the oil is hot, add the ham and saute for two to three minutes. You don’t want it to brown too much you just want it to give a little flavor to the oil.
Remove the ham from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil behind.
Add your onions and saute for a couple of minutes, the object is not to brown any of the vegetables, you just want to soften them a bit.
Next add your carrots, celery and garlic, sauteeing for a few minutes until the vegetables begin to soften. If they start to brown in the small amount of oil, you can add a tiny bit of water or chicken stock to the pot, a tablespoon or two.
After the vegetables have softened a little, add your chicken stock and the whole can of tomatoes. Bring the soup to a boil.
When the soup comes to a boil, add the kale a little bit at a time, submerging it so you can add more.
Once all the kale is added, add your zucchini, green beans, Parmesan rind, rosemary, ham and salt and pepper.
Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for twenty to thirty minutes.
Add the beans and taste for seasoning. Need more salt and pepper? Add it now.
The big soup? It’s ready to serve! We like ours sprinkled with a little bit of Parmesan but it’s delicious without.