1 cup dried beans: $0.90
1 onion: $0.50
2 carrots: $0.50
2 celery stalks: $0.50 1/2 head cabbage: $1.00 Fresh thyme: $1.39 1 pound turnips: $1.99 1/2 pound potatoes: $0.50
Pantry items: Olive oil, garlic, bay leaf, salt, Parmesan (optional).
Total cost (for 6-8 portions): $7.28
I love soups that do not call for chicken stock, which I seldom have on hand, but that still offer tons of flavor. This brilliant minestrone, which is probably my favorite recipe in my well-loved copy of The Art of Simple Food, fits that bill and a few others: vegetarian, check; cheap, check; bursting with healthy vegetables, check; studded with filling beans, check; hearty enough to make a meal of, check.
This soup gets a jolt of body and richness from the bean cooking liquid, so you really have to cook your own beans for best results. Its variety of yummy solids ensure that you really can be satisfied by a bowl of minestrone and nothing else, but if you want a green salad and a loaf of bread, you can afford them: you've just made a huge kettle of soup for far less than the price of a movie ticket.
- 1 cup dried cannellini, borlotti, or garbanzo beans
- Olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1/2 head cabbage, chopped into bite-size pieces
- 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 5 thyme sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 pound turnips, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces, greens washed and chopped if attached
- 1/2 pound yellow potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
- Grated Parmesan cheese to garnish (optional)
Cook the dried beans. Store them in their cooking liquid until you are ready to proceed.
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in your soup pot over a medium flame. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook until tender and a rich golden brown, 15-20 minutes. While this soffritto cooks, cook the chopped cabbage in boiling salted water until tender enough to eat. When the cabbage is finished, leave it in a colander to drain.
When the soffritto is soft and dark (but not burning), add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and salt. Stir and cook 5 minutes more. Then add 3 cups water and bring to a boil.
When the water boils, add the turnips and potatoes (and, if your turnips came with greens, the washed and chopped greens). Simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes and turnips are tender enough to eat. Taste for salt.
Add the cooked beans, 1 cup of bean cooking liquid, and the cabbage. Simmer for 5 minutes. If the soup is too thick, add more bean cooking liquid.