You don’t have to spend a lot of money, or add a lot of sodium or fat, to create a hearty soup base that pours health into your diet and chases off the chill. Try these tips for a healthy Minestrone soup base:
Make your own broth
Broth is the healthiest soup base and can be made with a few simple ingredients—water, onion, celery, carrots, and meat bones. Or make vegetable stock by swapping the bones for parsnips, turnips, and mushrooms. If you’re short on time, use a low-sodium broth from the store. If your recipe calls for cream, just use a few tablespoons. Or puree a skinned, cooked potato and stir that into the soup to thicken it.
Watch the fat content in meat
Choose lean cuts of meat or poultry. Brown meat, pat it dry, and drain excess fat from the pan.
Add high-fiber and in-season veggies
Beans, peas, and lentils are always good for fiber. And don’t forget seasonal vegetables like kale and cauliflower. If you’re using canned veggies, rinse them well to remove added sodium.
Add good carbs, but go easy on them
Brown rice, wild rice, barley, and small-sized whole grain pasta are all smart choices.
Use fresh herbs to get big flavor
Add fresh herbs to the pot toward the end of the cooking time to preserve the most flavors, or use them as a garnish. For dried herbs, warm them in a pan to release their oils and bump up their flavor power.
Minestrone soup recipe
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2–3 medium carrots, diced
- 1 rib celery, diced
- 1 12 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 1/3 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1-1/2 cups)
- 2 quarts of water or vegetable broth
- 1 1-inch piece parmesan rind (optional)
- 1-1/2 cups dry whole-grain penne (brown rice if gluten-free, whole wheat otherwise), cooked according to package instructions, drained and rinsed with cold water
- 1 12 oz. can cannellini or kidney beans, drained
- 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped, for garnish
- Grated parmesan to garnish (optional)
Sauté onions and garlic together with the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When softened (after about 3 minutes), add celery and carrots and continue cooking for another 5 minutes until vegetables start to soften. Add tomatoes and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 5–8 minutes. Add green beans, water or vegetable broth, and Parmesan rind. Bring to a simmer, cover, reduce heat to low, and continue to cook for 30 minutes.
Add drained beans and cooked pasta, and continue to cook at a gentle simmer for about 5 more minutes until warm. Remove Parmesan rind (if used), taste the soup, and add salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with fresh basil and grated Parmesan.
Note: For a variation on the recipe, use 1 lb. kale or chard—large stems removed and thinly sliced crosswise (julienned)—instead of the green beans.
Recipe courtesy of Julija Gelazis