This past Labor Day weekend was very chilly and there was no question that Fall was in the air. The weather was chilly enough to wear a hooded sweatshirt and have to restrain myself from going to a cider mill and getting warm doughnuts and cider (YUM!). It’s still a little early in the season for the cider mill so I settled on making homemade soup instead. I love creamy soups like Broccoli & Cheddar or Potato, Bacon, & Cheese, but I wanted something a little healthier. One of my favorite soups is Olive Garden’s minestrone soup with fresh out of the oven breadsticks for dipping. This recipe I found online states that it’s a ‘copycat’ of Olive Garden’s minestrone soup. I definitely wanted to try making it!
As you look at the recipe below you may be thinking it looks hard, but don’t sell your cooking skills short. You can easily make this! There’s a long list of ingredients but just prepare yourself by writing a detailed grocery list. There’s nothing worse than getting home and realizing you forgot one item. Also, while you’re at the store, you may be tempted to buy dried basil or parsley, but don’t give in. I used to do this as I thought fresh and dried herbs produced the same taste. WRONG. Not until I began getting into cooking did I understand this. Fresh herbs have a strong, rich flavor and add a lot to a meal by enhancing the flavors. If you want to save yourself a little bit of time, like I’ve mentioned before, buy pre-minced garlic in a jar at the store. I even went as far as buying baby carrots since I wouldn’t have to peel them and only needed to chop them into smaller pieces. Plus, left over carrots serve a nice purpose as they’re a healthy snack to have ready in the fridge.
|Fresh Spinach (don't buy frozen!)|
Once you’re home and ready to start cooking, most of the work centers around chopping the vegetables and herbs. The best part is when that’s complete you can walk away, with the exception of a few stirs here and there, while the soup simmers for 40 minutes. Let your house drink in the aroma while you decide if you want to go a step further and make homemade breadsticks.
My husband and I ate our soup and breadsticks while we watched one of our favorite tv shows. At first my husband didn’t say anything and I was surprised as I thought the soup was really good. Then out of nowhere he said, “WOW this is really good!” The soup was a hit! It’s very thick and hearty as it has many vegetables and pasta combined in a nice tomato infused broth. I explained how it’s a copycat recipe of Olive Garden’s minestrone soup and he said it was better! The most rewarding part about making this meal is that you will have many leftovers, especially if you're only cooking for 2 people. You won’t get tired of this soup either. The next day, while at work, my husband texted me… ‘Just had some of your soup…It was awesome. Can’t wait for dinner.’ What’s funny is that he knew we were having leftover soup for dinner. Make this soup, you won’t regret it!
Adapted from Recipe #77585 by Suzy, food.com
Prep Time: 20 mins.
Total Time: 1 hour
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup vidalia onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup zucchini, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh green beans
- 1/4 cup celery, chopped
- 4 teaspoons garlic, minced (about 4 cloves)
- 4 cups vegetable broth (note: make sure to purchase vegetable broth & not chicken broth)
- 1 (15 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained
- 1 (15 ounce) can great northern beans, drained
- 1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes (not drained)
- 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
- 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon basil, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 3 cups hot water
- 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 1 cup small shell pasta
- Chop onion, zucchini, carrots and celery. Finely mince garlic (or use minced garlic from a jar instead). Trim ends off the beans and discard. Cut the beans into approximately 1 inch pieces. Set all vegetables aside.
- Finely chop parsley and basil. Roughly chop the spinach into bite size pieces. Set aside.
- Heat three tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large pot.
- Sauté onion, celery, carrots, green beans, and zucchini in the oil for 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic during the last 2 minutes.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients, except the spinach and pasta, to the pot.
- Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add the spinach leaves and pasta shells. Cook for an additional 20 minutes or until desired consistency.