As many times as I’ve made minestrone, one of my absolute cold weather favourites, over the years I find how I make it changes. I’m considering that a good thing as tastes and indeed eating habits do change over time. As well, living gluten free for some time now, I’m not only getting used to the challenges of it, I’m very much starting to enjoy the cooking of it!
There will however always be pitfalls and things to watch for, and I hate to use this word but, vigilance is needed. Case in point the low sodium chicken stock I recently purchased. No worries, I thought – it’s just stock. Wrong. I was in a great hurry, so didn’t even read the label until I took it out of my cupboard, to use for this soup. Sigh. Not having any homemade stock in my freezer (which is why I bought some…) and partway into the soup making, I adjusted the soup making plan.
Build the flavour as I go, I thought, since I’ll have to use water – which will add no taste. I’ll just compensate as I go along.
Truth is… this IS the best minestrone I’ve ever made! Using mostly what I had on hand in my pantry, bits & pieces of veg in the fridge and freezer, I made a thick, healthy, busting with flavour one-dish-dinner of 8 servings.
I know minestrone freezes well, so unless I’m soon to have unexpected company, some will be frozen for future happy noshing!
Here’s my best tips for an ultimate pot of Minestrone:
- Italian pork & fennel sausage gives the best flavour, but you could use ground turkey or chicken, and add extra fennel seeds (be sure the sausage is gluten free if it’s an issue for you).
- Really brown the sausage/meat in the first step, even if you use stock instead of water. Much like making stew, this step is crucial to building flavour.
- If you’re not already, save & freeze the rinds from Parmigiano Reggiano (other than the serious browning of the meat, this is a fantastic-o way to add flavour!)
- Taste as you go, and don’t be shy with seasoning; I used extra fennel seeds, dried Italian oregano, and some dried chili peppers. This is a big bold soup – and should taste like it.
- If gluten is not an issue for you, use white rice & regular pasta – although using the brown rice adds flavour & nutrition.
- 1 TBSP olive oil (you may need more if not using sausage, which of course is fattier)
- 2 links Gluten Free Italian fennel sausage (or use ground turkey/chicken, adding another 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed)
- 1 med onion, diced
- 1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes (just enough to know it’s there, but you could always add more)
- 1 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 TBSP tomato paste
- 2 cups approx, diced zucchini, celery, potato, etc
- 2 - 3 medium carrots, peeled & sliced 1/4” thick
- 8 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 cup brown rice
- approx. 1 cup whole canned tomatoes, cut in pieces before adding
- 2 or 3 rinds from Parmigiano Reggiano
- 1/4 cup brown rice pasta (break spaghetti into 1” pieces)
- 19 oz can kidney beans (use whatever colour you have)
- salt & pepper - taste, adding more as needed
- Put a large heavy dutch oven type pot over medium heat, and add the olive oil.
- Split open the sausage casings, and drop in small bits to the pot.
- Thoroughly brown, breaking up with a spoon as needed; this could take 10 - 15 minutes.
- Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 5 minutes.
- Add the crushed fennel seeds, oregano, chili pepper flakes and a sprinkle of the salt & pepper, cooking for another 2 minutes
- Make a well in the center, and add the tomato paste. As it heats, stir it through the mixture, cooking for another minute or so.
- Add diced vegetables & carrots, cooking for anther 10 minutes.
- Add water, bay leaves, brown rice, cut up tomatoes, Parmigiano rinds, another sprinkle of salt & pepper, and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Taste for seasoning, adding more salt & pepper as needed.
- Add pasta and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Remove the Parmigiano rinds and taste the seasoning.
- Serve topped with some grated Parmigiano and a splash of good extra virgin olive oil.
- Makes 8 hearty servings.
- *Tip: this freezes very well, so even if your household is small, do make the whole batch for future happy noshing.
- **Tip: for a boost of fresh flavour, top with a bit of baby arugula when serving.