Friday, December 12, 2014

Minestrone Soup

Back in 1994, when I moved to Boulder, there were very few Indians in the area.  Our social circle included a few, wonderful, grad students, and a few couples.   We had two Anands and two Rameshes in our group.  Both Anands were from IIT Madras, same year, same branch.  One Ramesh was a confirmed bachelor and the other was married.  We also had a couple of other friends with little kids (now those kids are 24 – 25 years old!).

Every weekend, we would either meet in one of our houses or go out to eat.  We had our usual set of restaurants to visit – Bangkok Cuisine for Thai food, Jose Muldoon’s and Pablos for Mexican, Gandhi’s for Indian, Ras Kassa’s for Ethiopian, and this place called Grisanti’s for Italian.  Our group was loud, full of laughter, and a lot of fun.  I pity the people who were seated in the tables around us.



We especially liked to go to Grisanti’s if someone was having a birthday, because the waiters sang for you in a really special way.  I think this was the first place I heard the words “soup thadiyan”.  While this definitely loses its meaning in translation, it could be interpreted as a man who has become fat on soup.  The married Ramesh would keep calling one of the Anands “soup thadiyan” every time he ordered soup. 

I love soups and keep thinking of this phrase when I make them.  I used to make soups a lot, but after my oldest went off to college, I am making them less.  My husband and youngest will have soup, but it is not something they love or look forward to.  So only I end up having soup day after day – to finish up the leftovers.



So, when we were coming up with a menu for Thanksgiving, and it was leaning toward Italian, I decided to make minestrone soup.  This is lighter than chili and but rich enough to serve for Thanksgiving.

Here is what you need:

(serves 8)

  • 3 – 4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 – 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 6 – 8 green beans, trimmed and diced into ½” pieces
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian spice blend
  • salt to taste
  • 6 large tomatoes, chopped fine (you can use canned, diced tomatoes)
  • 4 cups organic vegetable broth
  • enough water to get the right consistency
  • 1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can navy beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup shell pasta
  • finely chopped fresh basil
  • grated parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground pepper


Here is how I made it:


  1. Heat oil in a big pot.  Add onions and fry till translucent.
  2. Add the garlic and fry for a few seconds.  Add celery and stir well.
  3. Add carrots, beans, spices, and salt.  Mix well and cook on high heat for about five minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes.  I had so many tomatoes from my garden at the end of summer.  I had chopped and frozen these for later use.  Home grown tomatoes have a great flavor, but if I don’t have these, I use canned tomatoes.
  5. When the tomatoes are mixed well, add the vegetable stock and enough water to get the right consistency.
  6. Bring this to a boil and reduce heat to a slow simmer.  At this point I transferred the soup to a crock-pot and let it slow cook for a couple of hours, but you can keep it on the stove for about 15 – 20 minutes.
  7. Add the beans and the pasta.  Let this cook for 10 more minutes till the veggies are done and the pasta is cooked.  If you are using a crock-pot, let it cook on low for about ½ hour and then switch it to the “keep warm” setting.
  8. Add basil a few minutes before serving.



To serve:

Ladle generous amounts of soup into bowls. Top with parmesan cheese and freshly ground pepper.  Serve with crusty French bread or croutons.


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