Whenever I travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa my older sister and I have a tradition of going to Olive garden for lunch. It all started when we were college students and she would treat me to the -all you can eat soup and salad- lunch special. She had a job and I didn't, so like any big sister she looked out for me, thanks Sis! My favorite was the minestrone soup with warm bread sticks. If you ever wondered like me whether they really have an Olive Garden Cooking school in Italy, well to my surprise the answer is yes, they do. It's located in Castellina in Chianti, Italy which is not very far from where I photographed this lovely Tuscan countryside when hubby and I traveled to visit some friends earlier this year.Inspired by nostalgia ,both for my sister and for Italy, here is my own version of minestrone soup.
These are the main ingredients and like me, feel free to be creative with spices and with vegetables that are in season. I chose to prepare a vegetarian soup but you can certainly add meat to your recipe.
1 can of kidney beans, drained
1-2 cans of vegetable broth
1 can of diced tomatoes
2 carrots, diced
2 bell peppers,chopped
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic , chopped
1-2 cups of pasta (cooked according to directions on box)
1 tsp of dried celery (you can use fresh)
1 tsp oregano
1 or 2 bay leaves
1/2 cup of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
basil for garnish you can also use parsley or cilantro
saute onions,garlic, bell peppers and carrots for about 5-8 minutes or until lightly browned. Then add beans, tomatoes, broth and spices. Simmer for about 30-45 minutes or until vegetables are tender. It's best to cook at medium heat. Add cooked pasta and simmer for 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.
The texture was a bit chunky so next time I think I would add more vegetable broth, I guess the beans absorb a lot of the liquid while cooking, but nevertheless it was very flavorful due to the oregano and bay leaves. After reserving a small portion for Beli I added crushed red pepper, just enough to make it spicy!
There is nothing like a warm and flavorful Italian version
of comfort food to brighten your day!