Minestrone with Cheese Tortellini

Winter days require soup. Whether you live in bitter-cold snowy winters or chilly drizzly wet winters, a good soup is the best way to warm up. I love this soup recipe because it is hearty, yet also has a wonderful mix of veggies that almost make it seem like a summer soup.

Minestrone usually calls for zucchini, which is not currently in season, but was available at my co-op. I'm not sure where it was from exactly, but I know it was grown in California and it was organic. Not sure how they pulled that one off, but hey, they did. Another reason why I love living in a place with a year-round growing season. I also used dried beans that I cooked myself, so if you are planning to use canned beans, the amount is equivalent to one can (just be sure to rinse them very well). A final note on the veggies: the size is up to you, but I love keeping the pieces big, which makes it a chunkier soup almost like a stew.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I used one thing that is not very "local." I used liquid smoke. We already had some in our cupboard (I think my husband bought it a while back), and I was craving that smokey flavor that is usually imparted on a soup through bacon or smoked ham. However, since I am a vegetarian, using either of these ingredients was out of the question. A few drops of liquid smoke did the trick. If you've got it, great, and if not, it will still be a tasty soup. And, if you are not a vegetarian, cook up two chopped-up strips of good-quality smoked bacon, and add it to the soup when you add the broth and canned tomatoes.


Minestrone with Cheese Tortellini
Makes one large pot

3 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

2 large cloves of garlic, minced

1 leek, trimmed and sliced thinly

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 ribs of celery, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

2 red potatoes, diced

4 cups vegetable stock or broth, preferably homemade

1 1/2 c cooked chickpeas (equivalent to 1 15-oz can)

3 1/2 c canned tomatoes (equivalent to a 28-oz can)


1 cup kale, sliced into thin strips

1 9-ounce package of high quality, all-natural cheese tortellini (locally made, if possible)

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add

the onion, garlic and leek. Saute stirring occasionally, over medium heat until softened.

Add the carrot, celery, zucchini, potato and stir around for a minute or two.

Add the stock, the chickpeas, and then the tomatoes (if your tomatoes are canned whole, break them down). Add salt to taste (be careful with this, especially if your broth is already salted) and liquid smoke, if using. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender.

Add the kale and the tortellini*, and continue to cook over a simmer until both are tender and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Serve with a generous sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

*If you plan on eating this over several days, cook and store the tortellini separately to prevent it from getting mushy. Then, when your ready to eat it, add a few tortellini to each portion prior to reheating.

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