20 February, 2013

Clean-Out-the-Fridge Minestrone

OooWee Baby!  It's cold outside!  It's chill-you-to-the-bone, have-to-get-in-the-shower-just-to-warm-up cold!

The only proper thing to eat on days like this is soup.

Earlier this week was clean-out-the-refrigerator day.  Among a few expired tubs of this and that, celery whose turgor pressure had long since gone, and a container of leftovers that could be an eighth grade science experiment gone wrong (there was only one this time, which is pretty good for me), I found three open jars of spaghetti sauce.  Three.  Why I need to have three open jars of spaghetti sauce at the same time is beyond me, but there they were: Classico Caramelized Onion and Roasted Garlic, Meijer Naturals Marinara, and The Silver Palate San Marzano Tomato Basil.  Inspection of the contents revealed that all three sauces were still edible.  I could use up the sauce by making some sort of pasta dish this week.

And then it got cold.  Super-dog-don't-want-to-go-outside-to-put-the-trash-at-the-curb cold.  I'm-wearing-handknits-but-the-wind-is-whipping-through-them cold.  When-people-say-it's-cold-in-Michigan-this-is-what-they-mean cold.

So because the only proper thing to eat on days like this is soup, I made some.  I decided that I could probably thin out the tomato sauce with some broth and that would make a really excellent minestrone base.  I did not go shopping.  I just used what I already had in the pantry and the refrigerator, and these are things that I usually have on hand.  So I decided to write down what could loosely be called a recipe, in case a similar situation arises again.  And then I decided that if I was going to write it down, I might as well share it with you fine people.

Here it is.

Clean-Out-the-Fridge Minestrone
Yield: A Pretty Big Vat
  • Get a vat (a large soup pot or Dutch oven).  Throw in some olive oil, a few swirls around the pot, and heat over medium to medium-high heat.  
  • Chop up some onion (I used three very small cooking onions) and some carrot (I used three medium ones.  You could use a whole bunch of chopped baby carrots instead.)  Throw it in the pot and cook until the onion is tender, about four or five minutes.  
  • Throw in some garlic (I used a heaping teaspoon).  Cook a couple more minutes.
  • Add the leftover pasta sauce to the pot.  My three partial jars added up to approximately one full jar.  (If you have less sauce, you can always adjust the amounts of the other ingredients and make a small vat.  Although I suppose if it's small, it's not really a vat, is it?)  
  • Mix in five cups of beef broth (I made mine with bouillon cubes) and bring to a boil.  
  • For good measure, add one teaspoon of Italian Seasoning or 1/2 teaspoon each of basil and oregano.  I know these spices are already in the sauce, but more can't hurt.
  • Add a couple cans of beans, drained and rinsed.  I used garbanzo and Great Northern, but kidney and cannellini would also work.  
  • Toss in some small pasta, such as ditalini, small shells, macaroni, or even alphabet shapes.  I used a heaping 1/2 cup of ditalini.  More than that, and the pasta will soak up too much of the liquid.  Turn down the heat a little so that the mixture is still boiling but isn't at a rolling boil and cook the pasta for as long as it says to cook to al dente on the box.
  • When pasta is al dente, add in a cup of frozen veg.  I used cut green beans.  Lima beans would also be good.  You could even use peas.  Simmer soup for about four or five more minutes, enough to thaw and cook the veg.
  • Ladle in soup crocks.  Sprinkle with some Parmesan if you got it.  More power to you if you have actual Parmagiano-Reggiano.
  • Eat.
Any leftovers that are stored in the refrigerator will probably need to be revived by adding some more broth upon reheating, as the pasta will continue to soak up liquid and the soup will get thicker.

And now I'll let the Supremes take you back to the beginning of this post.  Stay warm!

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