Recipe: Clean out the Refrigerator (and Pantry) Minestrone Soup

It’s amazing what a good, quick soup you can make from stuff you might otherwise throw out, as I was reminded last night. You don’t need meat. You don’t need bouillon cubes or anything fake like that. All you need is an assortment of food and a pot. And it only takes about a half hour.

Start with a big pot and put some olive oil in it. Then add something oniony. (I used dried-up old leeks. Always cut away all the bad parts of whatever you use!) Then cut up and add some carrots and celery. These three things are the basis of any vegetable soup.

Next, clean out the fridge or the pantry. Any vegetable, root, or leafy thing that’s on the verge can go in (again, not the rotten parts, but what’s left of the good parts). Last night I had a turnip, a celeriac root, and some little tomatoes and parsley. You can even put in frozen vegetables. Turn on the burner to medium high and let the stuff start cooking.

Meanwhile, boil some water for pasta. I used up three different types of whole wheat pasta from packages that were already open. No reason you can’t mix. But definitely always cook the pasta separately from the soup, otherwise the broth will taste starchy and you may get the pasta/soup ratio wrong. When the pasta’s cooked, strain it and add to the soup. If you end up with any leftover cooked pasta, make something else with it later.

Add a can of beans to the vegetable pot. Or, if you are ambitious, soak some dry beans the night before. Really, any kind of bean will do.

Then add some liquid to make the soup. Water is good. A little bit of tomato sauce is good, too; tomatoes make it Italian.

Add salt. Salt makes the difference between tasteless soup and tasty soup.

Shake in some spices. I put in basil and fennel. But experiment!

Cut up some garlic and drop it in.

When the soup smells good and tastes even better (usually it takes about a half an hour), it’s ready. Serve the soup with some grated Romano cheese and fresh ground pepper, if you feel like it. What’s great about this soup is that it’s healthy, and your refrigerator gets cleaned out while making it.


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17 Responses to Recipe: Clean out the Refrigerator (and Pantry) Minestrone Soup

  1. Patty December 11, 2009 at 1:30 pm #

    Hi Maria,
    I love the soup recipe! You and I cook alike. Have you ever made pasta pancakes with that leftover pasta? Mix the leftover pasta with an egg or two, parmesan or romano (whatever you have), salt and whatever spices you like. Cook it in a little olive oil like an omelet. When you turn it over add some mozzrella, or whatever you have on hand. My kids love it! You can add meat if you want. Enjoy!! I love your blog, it brightens my day whenever I read it ;0)

  2. Donna in Delaware December 11, 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    I had some leftover baby red potatoes that was starting to shrivel. I also had some beautiful kale that stayed a little too long in the fridge. I cleaned both well, cut off bad parts and made some potato-kale soup the other day. With onion, a little garlic, some homemade chicken broth, a little leftover frozen smoked bacon, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, arrowroot powder for thickening, diced potatoes and threw in some leftover canned chickpeas(there wasn’t many) and that was everything that I needed. Deeeeelicious! Made some of Maria’s biscuits to eat with it.

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  5. website January 20, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    This article is so inspiring! I’ve always want to make two things at the same time and to clean the refrigerator while cooking is a great idea! Thanks a lot for sharing the recipe for the soup!

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