A Soup Called Minestrone (with Parsley Pistou)

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Now this is  a story all about how
My leftovers got flipped-turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute, just sit on your throne
I’ll tell you how I made them into a soup called minestrone!

Just call me the Fresh Princess of Soup. Or call me a nerd. Either way, we both get to call this soup delicious.

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I adore this recipe for so many reasons, but the first and always most important one is how darn tasty it is.  It may just look like a big bowl of veggies, but I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve to turn that into something much greater than the sum of it’s parts.

I’m talking about bacon you guys! And cheese, too! Do I have your attention yet?

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It’s no secret they make everything taste better, and a little goes a long way. Just a few humble slices of smokey bacon and an old rind from a wedge of parmesan give this soup a richness that could never be achieved from veggies alone.

This stuff is so full of flavor, it’s easy to forget how healthy it is.

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And, well, that’s the thing: It’s crazy healthy!

Chock full of vitamins, minerals,  fiber and hydrating liquids, this minestrone is like a magic elixir. Yes, MAGIC! And we’ll take all the magic we can get this time of year, thank you very much.

But what really makes this soup such a no-brainer is how versatile and adaptable it is – perfect for using up all those leftover bits that I know you have lurking somewhere in your kitchen.

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For me, that means the wilted celery in my crisper drawer, a fresh sprig of thyme that sat out on the counter long enough to become a dried sprig of thyme, a handful of stray green beans on their very last legs, one of those Parmesan cheese rinds I’ve been hoarding, whatever greens didn’t make it into yesterday’s smoothie, a few slices of bacon leftover from breakfast, and the remains of a can of tomatoes that was opened a week ago when I only needed one.

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For you, it might mean something entirely different. So go ahead! Switch it up and use whatever odds and ends you have laying around. Take your trash and turn it into treasure. Repurposing is all the rage these days.

Use my recipe as a guideline, not gospel. That’s what’s going to make your soup special and unique. Like a snowflake!

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This soup is so warm, rich and hearty that it makes the perfect backdrop for a bright pistou to be swirled in right before serving.

What is pistou exactly? It’s the French equivalent of pesto, minus the pine nuts, and in this case minus the cheese as well. Just a pungent pop of garlic, parsley and olive oil to liven up the soup.

Healthy Bonus: The raw garlic in the pistou is amazing for warding off winter colds and the flu. And no need to worry about garlic breath either – the natural oils in parsley neutralize the sulfurous compound in garlic that makes our breath stank.  So you’ll be healthy, satisfied and still kissable too.

I told you, this stuff is magic. Clean out your fridge and make a batch today!

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Minestrone with Parsley Pistou

Makes 6 Generous Servings
Cook  Time: 30 minutes plus 1-2 hours to simmer (inactive)

This is not exactly a traditional minestrone in the sense that I use bacon instead of pancetta (I prefer the smokiness) and I leave out the pasta. Why add unnecessary carbs and gluten when you don’t have to? There’s already plenty going on.

That being said, this recipe is totally open to interpretation, so if you prefer pancetta or want to add in some pasta, don’t let me stop you. Throw in some leftover shredded chicken, the rice from last night’s Chinese takeout, a diced sweet potato that’s starting to sprout, or anything else about to go bad in your fridge.

Use what’s in season and what’s on hand. No need to make this more complicated than it is.

Ingredients
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 slices bacon, diced
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
5 stalks celery, diced (about 2 cups)
2 medium-large carrots, scrubbed clean and diced (about 2 cups)
3  cloves garlic, minced
1 sprig fresh thyme (sub 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
1 sprig rosemary (sub 1 teaspoon dried rosemary)
2 bay leaves
1 28oz can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed with your hands
5 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 parmesan cheese rind
1 bunch swiss chard, stems and leaves chopped
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 1/2 cups diced green beans

Parsley Pistou
1 large clove garlic, as finely minced as possible
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

Place a large heavy pot or dutch oven over medium heat and add in the olive oil and bacon. Cook until the bacon has given up most of its fat and is just starting to crisp, about 7 minutes. Add in the onion, celery and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened, about another 7 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for one minute more.

Use a piece of kitchen twine to tie together the thyme, rosemary and bay leaves into a bundle so they may be easily removed after cooking. Add the herb bundle to the pot along with the tomatoes, water, salt, pepper, parmesan cheese rind, swiss chard, cannellini beans, zucchini and green beans. Bring up to a simmer, cover and let cook for at least an hour, or let it go all day. The longer it cooks, the better. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

To make the pistou, combine the minced garlic, parsley and olive oil in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper and let sit for at least 20 minutes to let the flavors meld.

To serve, ladle the minestrone into bowls and drizzle some pistou in each. Serve additional pistou at the table along with grated parmesan and some crusty bread for dipping.

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