Oh my gosh, this soup. This soup!
I mentioned the Complete Cook’s County TV Show Cookbook on my new Cookbook Club page last week, but I only recently delved into its meticulous pages to try a recipe. I’d followed Chris Kimball, the creator of America’s Test Kitchen, via his excellent Cooks Illustrated magazines in my mother’s kitchen. However, I was unfamiliar with the Cook’s County recipes until this fabulous book showed up under the tree. (Thanks, Mama THT!)
What to do? Why, try a recipe, of course! Hence, this absolutely unreal minestrone soup.
Minestrone is an Italian “throw-it-all-in-the-pot” kind of soup, albeit of a usually meatless variety. While it’s probably best suited for spring, with its explosion of fresh produce like peas, green beans and asparagus, you can adapt minestrone to whatever vegetables are seasonal or available to you. The Cook’s County version uses cannellini or great Northern beans, tomatoes, onions, carrots, zucchini and Swiss Chard; you could certainly swap those out to include other beans or veggies that happen to populate your farmers market or backyard garden. (Or produce section at the grocery store. Judgment-free-zone here!)
The other trick with the Cook’s County version — and by “trick,” I mean “fabulous feature” — is that it’s designed for the slow cooker. While best suited for a lazy weekend day when you have a little prep time to spare, this soup could also easily lend itself to a weeknight meal. Just prepare steps 1 & 2 the night before; then, place the ceramic center of your slow cooker in the fridge. In the morning, return the ceramic center to the slow cooker hook-up, turn it on “low,” and let it go until you get home. (If your slow cooker is pretty powerful, like mine and THT’s, just cook the soup on “warm” until you can get home and check its progress.) Yum!
[By the way, any parenthetical additions here were changes I made based on scrambling through my pantry / freezer and realizing that I was missing a couple of things. While ATK tests their recipes to the Nth degree to make sure they’re nothing short of divine, these changes are so minimal that it’s hard to detect any differences. Phew!]
Slow Cooker Minestrone — from the Complete Cook’s County Cookbook
Serves 6-8; could be doubled or halved, depending on slow cooker size
- 1 cup tried cannellini or great Northern beans, rinsed and drained. (Pick over to remove funky-looking beans.)
- 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1-2 onions, peeled and chopped fine
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. (Alternately, 12-15 baby carrots, cut into 1/2 inch pieces)
- 8 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
- 1 28-0z can whole peeled tomatoes or diced tomatoes
- 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 3 cups water
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, chopped (or 2 tbsp dried basil)
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
- 2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, seeded, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 8 ounces Swiss chard, stemmed and chopped (or 1/2 cup frozen kale, thawed and squeezed in a paper towel to remove excess moisture)
- 1/2 cup small dried pasta, such as ditalini, orzor or elbows
- Salt & pepper to taste
Phew! Here’s What You Do:
- Add beans to a small pot and cover with water (about 1 inch above level of beans). Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until beans are beginning to soften (about 20 minutes). Remove, drain, and transfer to slow cooker.
- Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in Dutch Oven or large stock pot over medium heat. Add onions and carrots, cooking about 5 minutes or until veggies are softened. Add garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and their juice, and cook until pan is nearly dry (about 8 to 12 minutes). Stir in broth, water, 1/2 cup fresh basil, oregano, and pepper flakes and bring got a boil. Transfer to slow cooker, cover, and cook until beans are tender, 6-7 hours on low or 5-6 on high.
- Stir zucchini, Swiss chard, and pasta into slow cooker and cook on high, covered, until pasta is tender (about 25-30 minutes). Stir in remaining basil and olive oil. Season with salt & pepper to taste and serve with grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, if desired.
What are your favorite soup recipes for chilly winter days or cold January nights? Share away! Thanks for reading, and as always, happy eating.