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Homemade Minestrone Soup - special additions?

Since it's the middle of winter, and I still can't quite kick my wintertime cold, homemade soup sounds perfect to me. I'm making homemade minestrone tonight and was wondering what various ingredients my fellow chowhounds add to theirs to make it special & unique? I typically use fresh zuccini & greenbeans, as well as some summercrisp corn, and lots of fresh grated parmesan. Would love to hear your suggestions for a super soup! Ciao, hounds!

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  1. Small pasta and good bread and Extra Virgin olive oil.

    1. I always add freshly chopped Italian parsley to minestrone soup.

      1. White kidney beans (aka cannellini beans), maybe a little potato for heft and some fresh chopped basil if I have it on hand.

        1. Forget the fagiolini (green beans) and zucchini. Use cipolle (onions), aglio (garlic), olive oil, lentils, cece (garbanzos, chick peas), cannellini beans, 28-oz. canned whole tomatoes (to be crushed by hand like Mario Batali of 'Molto Mario' does) along with the tomato juice, precooked Italian salsiccia sliced or crumbled, ditalini, and lots of fresh flatleaf parsley (Italian stuff). Use some chicken stock and vino for the liquid. Add a little crushed peperoncini (hot pepper).

          Buon appetito!

          1 Reply
          1. re: ChiliDude

            I just discovered Barilla mini penne, it's perfect for minestrone, especially for leftovers as it doesn't expand in the soup overnight (it's ribbed). I also add carrots, celery, escarole, cabbage and leeks. I saute the vegetables in olive oil and bacon fat. Season with oregano, basil, parsley, salt and pepper, parmesan, thyme, bay leaf, red pepper flakes and worcestshire. You don't have to use all of these, you can pick and choose.

          2. When I am ready to drink the soup I drizzle some truffle oil on the top (drizzle on my bowl, not for the entire pot) and it makes the soup taste divine

            1. just made a big pot yesterday and it's all gone already. chard or cabbage are good in it, as well as the other suggestions above. my most important secret is to drop a parmesan rind in the soup about 30 minutes before it's done (i save them in the freezer just for this). it imparts an amazing depth of flavor,and i always feel so thrifty, since i paid for that rind anyhow! (mine had beef shanks, garlic, white beans, tomatoes, fennel, chard, carrots, onion, red pepper flakes and a splash of vino--beef stock of course).

              1. I always add some kind of cabbage. And when I'm feeling really indulgent, I throw in some chestnuts (roasted is best, boiled or canned will do).

                1. Barley and or Bulghur Wheat are great additions to soup. Gives soup more fiber and oomph.

                  1. Okay, fellow hounds, thanks for the recommendations thus far. At the present moment it's simmering on the stove top & is looking fantastic! Tonight we're running with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, onion, italian parsley, tomato paste & whole tomatos (smashed per your rec, Chilidude), corn, zuccini, green beans, cannellini beans, mini penne, and fresh parmesan. Yum! And I'm even browning some salsiccia since it sounded so good, too. I'll be serving this with calmata olive bread & more fresh parmesan. Bon apetit & many thanks!

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: saucy_girl

                      Bravissimo, saucy girl! Sounds good to me! That's my kinda cooking. My wife of Italian heritage would not eat such a wonderfully described minestrone because she does not care for thick soups. But I love the stuff. Your ingredient list looks as if you could invite the entire neighborhood to your table to partake of the bounty.

                    2. I always throw a few parmesan rinds into the soup while it's cooking. Adds great flavour - just remember to fish out the rinds before serving. They're not nice to eat.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Nyleve

                        That's my favorite part. I eat the semi-melted cheese before I serve dinner, I guess I wouldn't actually serve it at the table though.

                        1. re: coll

                          It's that waxy rindy part I find a bit oogy. But whatever turns your crank.

                          1. re: coll

                            I fish out the rinds, which after a few hours are soft, cut them into cubes, and put them back in the soup. Rinds from decent parm should be perfectly edible.

                        2. Ok, fellow hounds, here's the yum-report. My dinner guest went on-and-on about how good it was... 'the best he's ever had'. I sent some home with him for lunch today & he just confessed that he ate it all last night when he got home! I added some freshly grated parmesan to the onion/garlic/italian parsley & it gave it a great flavor. I think my favorite addition was the salsiccia; I used 'hot italian' salsicca, browned it seperately, and added it near the end of the cooking process. OMG, YUMMM!!! You're all welcome for chow next time!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: saucy_girl

                            Sounds better all the time!

                          2. make a paste with garlic/chopped parsley/parmesan/olive oil and add a spoonful to each portion when serving.

                            Your soup sounds delicious. I use cannelini beans, cabbage or chard, onion, carrot, garlic, tomatoes, beef stock and pancetta in mine. Noodles, not always.

                            1. I think there's a critical mass for minestrone.... once you have the basics, you can add almost anything else and it will still taste great. I see carrots didn't make the final cut - shame because they add a certain sweetness to the soup.

                              I have 4 quarts in the fridge and freezer and have it several times a week!

                              Yum!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: whuebl

                                You know, you are so right about carrots adding sweetness to soup.

                                My baby lima soup is usually just baby limas, onions and smoked hamhocks. Just for fun just recently I added carrots and celery to the onions and I could not believe how much sweeter the soup turned out. I didcontinued the practice because to me it was too sweet and it tended ot overshadow she smokieness. It was a fun thing to learn though.

                              2. I always prefer a cup of cooked risotto rice instead of pasta in mine, as well as the addition of some cubed pork rind, and a small amount of hot italian sausage - yum!

                                1. We're not fond of pasta in our minestrone. Ever since I made the Minestrone alla Milanese from the Vegetarian Epicure cookbook, we've prefered it with rice. The recipe recommends Lombardy rice but I've only seen rice labeled Lombardy a few times so I use Arborio. Then again, for all I know Arborio rice may come from the Lombardy region. My Italian specifics are rough.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: morwen

                                    I use brown- or wild-rice pasta!

                                  2. My mother always makes it with lamb shanks and now I can't make it without. So delicious. Since I like it spicy, I add a healthy (perhaps overly so?) squirt of Sriracha. Actually, I can't recall a single soup in the last year or two that I made without adding Sriracha. It's a habit.

                                    I recently began adding parmesan rinds to the pot after reading about it here on CH -- great addition.

                                    1. HI, I'm new to this site. How can I get an actual Minestrone recipe?

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: mraldeyz82

                                        Search the recipe section
                                        http://www.chow.com/recipes

                                      2. I will sometimes add carrots, broccoli, spinach, kale, mushrooms - basically any vegetable I have available. Also, beans are good (any of your favorites) or pasta. Or rice, which I prefer. And, I am a huge fan of Minestrone Milanese, which has a dollop of pesto on the top.

                                        Pair with some nice crostini :-) You can't really go wrong with a good vegetable soup, so long as you start with a good base and aromatics.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: chowkari

                                          I like to add a good dollop of pesto to our soup. I freeze pesto in ice cube trays when our basil is plentiful and then pop in a cube or two into the soup. If you don't have a freezer full of mysterious green cubes use some store bought pesto.

                                          1. re: lucyis

                                            I agree that the addition of a little pesto goes a long way to make it really great. I also feel that putting some kale, especially Russian kale is essential!

                                        2. There used to be a great lunch place in the West Village in NYC that only served lunch. The last time I went there my Minestrone came with a side of broccoli rabe (they have long since closed and become a wine bar.)

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: chilihead

                                            Just a bit of freshly squeezed lemon juice - makes a wonderful difference. It's one of those ingredients which, when properly used in moderation, causes your guests to ask what special ingredient you have in your soup. I've known some to use red wine vinegar but I don't think it as nearly as good as the lemon juice.

                                            1. re: todao

                                              Although too late to be of use to saucy_girl, I would feel remiss not mentioning the minestrone from a little café named Nick's Italian in McMinnville, Oregon.

                                              Nick's has been mentioned in national publications for his quality interpretation of the cuisine and his minestrone is one of the best bowls of soup of any type I've had the pleasure to consume.

                                              Fortunately, he has publicly released the recipe which appears in its original form at Saveur and which may be found here: http://www.saveur.com/article/Food/Ni...