I had to wear my coat last night for the first time this year and that can mean only one thing – we are moving into my favorite season of the year …. Soup Weather!
The wonderful concoction we call SOUP is probably one of the earliest inventions that Human Beings came up with, maybe even predating the invention of the Wheel and other useful gadgets. Once some long-ago ancestor figured out how to get a fire started, roasting and baking were probably the earliest forms of cooking but it mustn’t have taken long for practicality and thrift to drive along the idea of using everything up by stewing it in a kettle of water and ladling out bowls of the simmering stuff for the evening meal.
While various kinds of meat have been employed to create delicious soups and stews, meat is not absolutely necessary. This is my favorite vegetable soup which is actually a form of easy and economical Minestrone containing no meat and requiring less than 15 minutes to mix together. After everything has been added in and brought to a boil, I reduce it to a simmer and then indulge in the time-honored tradition of enjoying the aroma of a big pot of soup cooking itself and the delightful anticipation that goes with it.
Easy Minestrone Soup begins with a 3-quart saucepan and an ingredient found in the Mexican ethnic section of most supermarkets … two cubes Knorr Tomato Bouillon which are to be dissolved in four cups of boiling water. When bouillon has dissolved, add one half of a 26 ounce jar of Prego Heart Smart Marinara Sauce,* a pound of frozen chopped vegetables (mix of green beans, corn, carrots, et al.), and a 15-ounce can of kidney beans. (Optional: Real tomato lovers may want to add in a 15- ounce can of diced tomatoes too.)
Bring everything to a boil, lower heat and simmer for an hour or more or until vegetables are tender. I sometimes boil and drain a pot of my favorite pasta separately. Instead of mixing it with the soup, I put some of the pasta in the bottom of a large soup mug and ladle my Easy Minestrone over it, topping it all with a generous sprinkling of fresh Parmesan Cheese. (NOTE: This recipe allows for delicious leftovers of both soup and pasta, but I never mix the two until the last minute before eating as I think that this helps preserve the quality and character of each and prevents the pasta from becoming soggy.)
There you have what may be the easiest Minestrone you may ever make – and I should know because I have personally devised and used this recipe dozens of times. It is my favorite, especially during Soup Weather. A large mug of this is enough for a meal but it would also be perfectly complemented with a fresh tossed salad, warm garlic bread and fruit sorbet for dessert. If I’m in a festive mood, sometimes I will add a glass of red wine.
As Italian cooks are prone to say: “Mangi!” (“Eat!”)
* Any flavor Prego may be used as long as it is smooth and not Chunky Garden.