Minestrone is a soup of scraps, and because the recipe is infinitely changeable depending on what you have, it’s a soup of the moment. Note: This freezes well, as long as it doesn’t have pasta. Freeze in airtight containers for up to 6 months.
- Start with the aromatics. Dice a large onion and, if you have them, a few carrots and ribs of celery. Cook in a mix of butter and olive oil, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Add a few finely chopped garlic cloves along with a handful of fresh herbs. If you don’t have fresh, use dried, but just a teaspoon or so of each. Thyme, rosemary, sage, and marjoram are great here. If you have basil, save it for the finished bowl. Throw in a teaspoon of salt and a bay leaf and continue to cook for a few minutes. Now add the liquid–about a quart of water, stock, or whey. Bring it to a low boil, then reduce to a simmer. If you have a Parmesan rind or prosciutto end, add it now.
- From here, you have a great base. Add any combination of diced leeks, hearty greens sliced into ribbons, peeled and cubed winter squash, diced zucchini, and green or yellow beans cut into 1-inch lengths.
- Add the tomatoes. This can be 2 cups of roasted tomatoes, 2 cups chopped canned tomatoes, or 2 medium fresh tomatoes, cored and diced. Include any liquid from the can, jar, or bag.
- Finally, add the extras. Add any or some combination of cooked beans (cannellini and chickpeas are my favorites here), cooked pasta, or cooked grain.
- Scoop into big bowls and finish with your toppings. A drizzle of olive oil, grated Parmesan, pesto, and coarsely chopped basil are all wonderful here.
Alana Chernila is the author of "The Homemade Pantry: 101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making" and "The Homemade Kitchen: Recipes for Cooking with Pleasure." She has contributed to Martha Stewart Living magazine and Food52. For more of her writing, visit eatingfromthegroundup.com.