The Italian influence of minestrone is what made me like pure-veggie soup for the first time. No sodium-filled chicken stock is necessary for a hearty, savory soup when you cook down carrots, onions, tomatoes and zucchini with basil, parsley and thyme and then add beans and pasta.
Even though this is "summer" soup, I found the New York Times recipe last fall, and it became the first of my series of fall and winter soup-making Sundays that give me meals throughout the week (and then more meals when I freeze part). I tweaked the recipe a bit for my tastes (no turnips, please) and to simplify fancy pistous and bouqet garni.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
3/4 pound zucchini, diced
2 bay leaves
Thyme, parsley, and basil to taste
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
6 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
1/2 cup soup pasta, such as elbow macaroni or broken spaghetti, or 3/4 cup penne
Freshly grated Parmesan for garnish
Heat the olive oil to medium-low range in a large, heavy pot, and add the onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring about three minutes until vegetables begin to soften, and add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Continue to cook, stirring often, until tender, about five more minutes. Add the garlic, stir together for about a minute, then mix in the tomatoes. Keep stirring until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes. Stir in two quarts (8 cups) water, the zucchini and spices, and bring to a simmer. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in the canned beans. Taste and adjust salt.
While the soup is simmering, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the green beans. Boil five minutes, until tender but still bright green. Transfer to a bowl of ice water, allow to cool, and drain. Retain the cooking water in case you want to thin the soup. (For a lazier version, omit the green beans or add canned ones.)
Add the pasta to the soup and simmer another 10 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked al dente. Stir the cooked green beans into the soup. Grind in pepper, and adjust seasonings. Soup should be savory and rich-tasting. Remove bay leaves. Sprinkle Parmesan on the top of soup once served in bowls.
Yield: Serves six to eight