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Minestrone Soup

Minestrone soup is the perfect season opener for the first cold evening of fall; a use-up-everything medley of all the things you already have in your fridge and pantry.  Rustic, hearty, rough and tumble – no rules – with a rich tomato’y goodness broth.  We used a huge pot and made enough for our family to eat for three days!  We took one package of sweet Italian sausage links, removed the casings and made deliciously seasoned meatballs, well worth the extra time!  But you can also just slice the sausage into coins for a quick version.

Ingredients (for Soup and Sausage meatballs):
3-4 tablespoons Olive Oil
1 large onion, diced
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
2 Large cartons of low sodium chicken broth
1 Jar of Due Cellucci Tomato Basil Sauce
1 Pound of sweet Italian Sausage
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced into half-moons
3-4 celery stalks, sliced into half moons
4-5 Kale leaves, Cut into ribbons (we like Lacinato Kale)
1 large can (or two regular size cans) dark red kidney beans
1/3 to ½ pound (less than half the box) of Ditalini pasta
2 tsp of Italian seasoning (plus more for meatballs)
2 tsp of oregano (plus more for meatballs)
1 tsp of onion powder (plus more for meatballs)
1 tsp red pepper flakes (plus more for meatballs)
1 whole bunch of fresh parsley, finely minced (some for soup, some for meatballs, rest for garnish)
¾ cup of grated parmesan (1/2 cup for meatballs, rest for garnishing soup)
½ cup of panko (for meatballs)
1 egg (for meatballs)
Salt and pepper for soup and meatballs

Preparation: Meatballs
Remove casings from sweet Italian sausage. In a bowl mix in one egg, panko, grated parmesan, various dried herbs, red pepper flakes, 1 tsp each salt and pepper, a good handful of minced parsley, and a few glugs of olive oil.  Use hands or fork to mix into sausage well.  Oil hands and form small spoon-sized meatballs and set aside.

Preparation: Soup
1. Sauté the diced onion in olive oil to translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the minced garlic, sauté for another minute or so.  Some salt and pepper, more later. 

2. Add both containers of chicken broth, Italian seasoning, oregano, red pepper flakes, onion powder, flame on medium.   

3. Add in the Ditalini pasta, let pasta cook for about 5 minutes, then add in the meatballs and the carrots and celery.  Simmer on low.  Add in additional cups of water as pasta will absorb a lot of the liquid.  I usually add one cup at a time as needed.

4. Once pasta is just al dente and meatballs are mostly cooked through, add in the jar of Due Cellucci sauce and the can of kidney beans.  Stir gently, keep simmering.  Add in all the ribboned kale.

5. Toss in a handful of minced parsley, taste for seasoning, add in salt and pepper, additional dried herbs as desired, and red pepper flakes.

Once the pasta is done to your liking, serve hot in bowls with toasted baguette and garnish with remaining parsley and grated parmesan.