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If you’ve only had canned Minestrone it’s time to revisit this classic Winter Minestrone. This soup is simply a bounty of flavor, hearty and super healthy. I “lifted” the idea of adding the noodles in separately from Tyler Florence, which very nicely solves the problem of unappealing noodles and the muddied flavors that plague some Minestrones.

Winter Minestrone

Winter Minestrone

True confession: we never liked Minestrone before having this, and actually prefer to serve the pasta on the side to be stirred in as we wish. When I mentioned bounty, I mean bounty – 12 hearty servings. Pull out your big pot for this. It freezes very well (without the noodles) but it’s so inexpensive it would be perfect to bring out for a crowd or potluck.

Tyler Florence served his with Parmesan Toasts and floated them in the soup like croutons. They look wonderful, but I didn’t make them this time. The directions for the Parmesan Toasts are below.

The cost for this soup was incredibly low for the volume of food it made, $3.87 for 12 servings – primarily because I’ve been shopping the specials and have a well stocked pantry and freezer. Even buying off the shelf at sale prices it still comes in at a great price.

Minestrone, 12 servings, 2 cups each

  • 8 ounces rigatoni or similar pasta, cooked al dente and drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 12 ounces Italian sausage
  • 4 medium carrots, roughly chopped
  • 4 celery ribs, roughly chopped
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 quarts low sodium chicken broth
  • 28 ounces crushed tomatoes, canned
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 pound cannelini beans, cooked, or (3 to 4) 15 oz cans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups sturdy greens, coarsely torn or chopped (kale or escarole)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion tops
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • coarsely ground black pepper and salt to taste (about a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of pepper)

Bring a pot of salted water to boil for the rigatoni. Cook the rigatoni in the boiling water for 6 minutes; it should be slightly underdone.

In a soup pan, add the sausage and cook, breaking up the sausage with the side of a big spoon until well browned. Chop 1/2 the carrots, celery, and onion in a food processor, almost pureeing them. Remove and chop the other half, leaving them a bit chunky. Add to the saucepan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Add crushed garlic. Crush the dried herbs in your hand and add to mixture. Cook for about a minute.

Stir in the crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, cannelloni beans, chicken stock and greens. Bring to a simmer and cook for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When ready to serve, add rigatoni into the simmering soup. Add parsley or green onion tops, and the vinegar. Add salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste. Discard the bay leaf.

Garnish with Parmesan Toasts, Parsley or thinly sliced green onion

Notes:

  • We like to keep the pasta on the side and add it to in our bowls as desired
  • This soup has tons of flavor, even with the dried herbs, but don’t be dismayed if you taste it before the 25 minutes simmering time; it takes a bit of time for them to blend and flavor the soup. The salt and pepper and the vinegar make a huge difference at the end.
  • If you use dried parsley, reduce the amount by about 1/2 and add in when you put the rest of the dried herbs in the pot.

Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:

  • Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
  • Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
  • Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
  • Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.

Strategies Applied:

  • This simple, easy soup is in itself a time saver:  it makes so much, and freezes magnificently, especially without the pasta, but you could streamline this soup by preparing batches of the vegetables, herbs and beans ahead of time, labelling and freezing, so they’re at the ready when you wish to make it. Total cooking time about 40 minutes – prep time about 15.
  • Pasta: I’ve hardly paid for any pasta in years, I simply buy on sale with a coupon, especially for the higher end pastas. A great sale price for a pound is about 88 cents a pound, but most coupons are for 50 cents to a dollar. Since not every one is a couponer, I’ll just count the cost as 44 cents. I have no issue with substituting other types of pasta for the rigatoni.
  • Olive Oil: I have a little strategy for buying olive oil – using coupons and sales to lower the price, so click on the link. I think it’s important to use olive oil as opposed to many others – the health benefits outweigh a bit more extra cost, and it can be had at a very reasonable price. I also like the fact that Olive oil contains no hidden trans fats like Canola or Vegetable oil. Cost for this recipe: 16 cents.
  • Italian Sausage:  Look for great specials in the fall. I last bought at $2.88 for 20 ounces with a sale and coupon. I used 12 ounces here and put the rest back in the freezer where it is fine for short term. Yes, I AM that cheap! Cost:  $1.73.
  • Onions: They keep well, so try to buy on sale. Aldi’s is a good place to find reasonably priced onions. Always less expensive in the fall/winter months, the pricing in my area runs from 33 to 66 cents a pound. Store them in a dark, cool place but not near potatoes. If you’ve bought too many onions, don’t let them go bad.
  • Slice or dice them, saute and portion into ziplocs labeled “onions” and freeze. You’ve just saved yourself a step for next time you make a dish. If you have enough, consider making French Onion Soup. If you use half an onion, consider if you can sauté the rest and put it in a Ziploc in the freezer. If not store in the door where you’ll see it when you’re cooking next. 2 onions run (at 56 cents a pound) about 35 cents.
  • Carrots: An inexpensive item even not on sale – but it keeps so well I buy a couple of packages if it is cheaper. $1.00 a pound is standard in our area, but the larger packages of 5 pounds are often on sale for $2.50 – that’s 50 cents a pound, or about 20 cents for four. Carrots will keep longer if you rotate the package, which is so often on the bottom of the drawer, so they don’t sit in condensation.
  • Celery: generally inexpensive, but does go on sale from time to time, so I buy extra when it does. Celery keeps so well, there’s no reason to not buy when it’s not on sale. Remember to use your leaves, they’re full of flavor, and if you don’t use them in your cooking, save them, along with the bottom parts for soup or stock.  Always wash your celery extremely well. To keep longer, slip a plastic bag loosely over the exposed top of the celery. A good price in my area is 98 cents a sleeve, with about 15 or so stalks in a sleeve. Cost for 4 stalks is 26 cents.
  • Garlic:  I look for a price of about $2.99 a pound, or about 54 cents a head. Check the pricing of the bulk per pound as opposed to the packaged. I never really find it on sale, but I use so much, I pay attention and buy a bit more when I see the price is lower.  Cost for 5 cloves, around 7 cents.
  • Chicken Stock:  If you read me regularly, I make my own with scraps of vegetables and bones – here’s the basic recipe I use for Best Turkey or Chicken Stock - it’s not particular and though it simmers for a long time, the burner is barely on – I just count it as free.
  • Tomatoes, canned:  These go on sale periodically, and if you’re flexible about brand you can often find inexpensive prices at the same time the producer issues coupons or Catalinas (slips that print out at check out giving you money back if you buy so many. Catalinas are often unadvertised.) Check your coupon matching site and load up when they are at very low prices  My tomatoes were no cost, but I’ll price it out at 50 cents, which is an easily attainable sales price.
  • Beans: The lowly bean is one of the healthiest foods one can eat – eating beans regularly basically eliminates the issues so commonly known. Dried beans are so inexpensive to start with that they are seldom advertised as being on “sale,” but they often are after any Holiday in which Ham is considered an option for the main meal. Check for great pricing, too, in the ethnic aisles of the grocery store, as well as the pasta/bean aisle. Prices range, on sale, from $.79 to $1.00 a pound. Aldi’s had three pound bags for $2.39, which is the lower number.If you’re used to buying canned beans, unless a 15 ounce can is less than 26 cents with sales and coupons, they are more than the 79 cent per pound price at Aldi’s. A fifteen ounce can is about 1 1/2 cups of beans, and a pound is roughly the equivalent of 3 cans. I have no problem substituting the more widely available navy, white or even pinto beans for this recipe. Cost for this soup is 79 cents.
  • Greens: They vary widely in availability and price by season, but kale is always available here, 99 cents a bunch, 2 cups is about 1/3rd. Cost 33 cents. Spinach works, also, but tends to be a bit slimy when broken down in the soup.
  • Red Wine Vinegar: I pick up a jug of white vinegar around Easter – often with a coupon, and often on an unadvertised sale. It keeps forever and is dirt cheap. The better vinegars are often on sale at Easter, and on sale with coupons sporadically through the summer. Cost nominal
  • Parsley or Green Onion:  I grow my own parsley on the windowsill in the winter, and pray I can keep it alive till spring. Green onions I grow perpetually in a glass in my window: I just trim off the tops and they regrow. They’ll play out every two to three of months, and I wait for a special and buy another bunch. I’ll count this as free.

Nutrition:

Per Serving: 319 Calories; 12g Fat (32.9% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 35g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; 22mg Cholesterol; 669mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 1 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1 1/2 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.

Put Your Own Spin on It:

  • I suggest making the soup once, then next time adjust it to your personalized taste.
  • Speaking of flavor, this soup would be a great candidate to use your leftover parmesan rinds.  This soup is great with cabbage thrown in and no pasta!
  • It’s also a great recipient for leftover veggies:  pieces of squash, or beans, etc.
  • Minestrone is made many different ways in Italy, and the flavors tend to follow the seasons and the location it’s made in – use your good judgement, however.  Use your favorite beans or combinations for a nice change.

Parmesan Toasts: 

Tyler Florence served his soup with parmesan toasts floating in the bowls:  Preheat the broiler. Put  baguette slices in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano and broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown, about 3 minutes. Ladle the soup into bowls and float a couple of the baguette slices on top.  Very similar to the way my family makes Parmesan Toast, except this doesn’t have the garlic butter under the Parmesan.

My Pay Off: 

  • What can I say?  Three generous meals for my family; one to eat now, one to eat later, and one to freeze, very healthy, time conscious and wonderful.
  • Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention, cheap, cheap, cheap…and all made with ingredients I pretty much have on hand.
  • I can throw this together from what I have in my freezer, fridge and pantry – and NOT go outside in the freezing cold.
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