Packed with vegetables, pasta and beans in a tomato-y broth, vegetarian Minestrone Soup is one of the first recipes I learned in cooking school decades ago. It is hearty, filling and wholesome, and I can almost guarantee that you're going to love it!
If you are using canned beans, you can jump ahead to Cooking Pasta step.
Rinse and soak dried beans in 2 cups water overnight. Drain all the water and rinse the soaked beans with fresh water.
Cook soaked beans in water and salt till they are softened and tender using your favorite method.I have listed 3 options for cooking beans in the notes section. Once the beans are cooked to al dente, drain them and set aside for later.
In a pan or pot, take 3 cups water and let it come to a boil. Then add ½ teaspoon salt.
Add 1 cup elbow macaroni (or any small pasta variety).
Cook pasta on medium-high heat until al dente.
Strain the pasta using a colander or sieve. Cover and set aside.
Heat extra virgin olive oil in heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add chopped onions, chopped garlic, chopped celery, and bay leaf. Sauté for 3 minutes.
Add chopped cauliflower florets, chopped carrots, potatoes, baby corn and button mushrooms (or substitute roughly 3 cups of sturdy vegetables of choice). Sauté for 5 to 6 minutes stirring at intervals.
Add tomato purée (or crushed tomatoes), tomato paste, dried oregano, crushed black pepper and salt as per taste.
Cover the pan and let veggies simmer until fork tender.
Making Minestrone Soup
As soon as the vegetables are fork tender, assemble the soup components.
Add the cooked kidney beans. (If using canned beans, add 1.5 cups canned beans drained of all the liquids and rinsed in water and drained of water.) Mix and simmer for a minute or more until the beans are warmed through.
Add the cooked pasta. Mix gently and and simmer for a minute or more until the pasta is just warmed through, being careful not to overcook the it.
Switch off the heat and move the pan to a trivet on your countertop.
Add ¼ cup chopped basil and ¼ cup grated vegetarian parmesan cheese. Stir to incorporate. Taste and season as necessary.
Pour soup in bowls or mugs and serve hot. Garnish with some grated Parmesan cheese and torn basil leaves.
Add a drizzle some extra virgin olive oil while serving for a bit of extra richness. Enjoy, preferably with some crusty bread or buttered toasts.
The soup will keep for up 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator, or up to one month in the freezer. Do not add cheese and basil if you plan to freeze.
Freeze your soup in muffin tins, then store in a zip top plastic bag. Anytime a craving for soup strikes, pop 2 to 3 pucks of soup into a mug and warm in the microwave or in a pan on the stove-top. Add cheese, basil and serve warm.
Options to cook beans
Option 1 - Instant Pot: Add soaked kidney beans, 2 to 2.5 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt. Seal the IP lid and move the valve to the sealing position. Pressure cook for 15 to 20 minutes on high pressure. Wait for 10 to 12 minutes after you hear the beep sound when the pressure cooking is complete. Lift the valve to release any extra pressure.
Option 2 - In a pan on the stove-top: Add the beans, 2.5 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt in a deep pan or pot. Cover and simmer on medium-heat until beans are tender. If the water froths too much, then remove the lid or cover pan partly with lid and simmer.
Option 3 - Stove-top pressure cooker: Add the soaked beans, 2 cups water and ½ teaspoon salt in a 2 litre pressure cooker. Pressure cook for 12 to 15 minutes on medium heat. When the pressure falls on its own in the cooker, open the lid.
Pasta: I recommend you read the package directions for your pasta. Cook times will vary widely depending on the shape and size of the noodles.
Beans: Any bean or pulse works well. Just be sure to know the cook time of whatever dried bean you opt to use. Canned beans (or lentils) are also perfectly acceptable. Add about 1.5 cups of preferred choice of canned beans. Be sure to drain them and rinse them in water before adding to the soup. Do a taste test first as sometimes canned beans can be bitter. If they are bitter discard them.
Pans: Cut back on dishes by reusing the pot you used to cook your pasta to sauté your veggies.
Veggies: Use veggies that are in season, or whatever mix of frozen vegetables you happen to have on hand. Just remember, if you use a mix of veggies with different cooking times, add the ones that take more time to cook (e.g. potatoes) earlier in the process, then add faster-cooking veggies (e.g. spinach) last.
Make your own tomato puree: If you want to make your own tomato purée, simply blitz chopped 3 medium to large tomatoes (300 grams) in a blender until smooth.
Cooking Veggies: To avoid having your some of your vegetables end up over- or under-cooked, be sure to cut them into even pieces.
Herbs: While fresh basil is preferred for its bright color and aroma, feel free to substitute approximately 1 tablespoon of dried basil. (For future calculations, 1 teaspoon of dried herbs is approximately the same as 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs.)