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Minestrone is Italian vegetable soup, a one-pot meal that provides the perfect opportunity to clean out the fridge. This hearty version is made with homemade chicken stock (and cooked chicken) that’s ready in about 30 minutes, to which you can add any vegetables you have on hand.
This chicken stock isn’t quite as nutrient rich as stock that’s simmered for hours, but it still tastes so much better than canned stock. Plus, you’ll have enough cooked chicken for the soup and another meal.
Minestrone is delicious with only the carrots, cabbage and kale this recipe calls for, but don’t hesitate to throw in other veggie odds and ends from the fridge. Zucchini, broccoli, root vegetables and green beans are all great additions. The more veggies you add, the less likely you are to miss the beans, pasta or rice that usually bulk up a bowl of minestrone.
Time in the Kitchen: 1 hour 45 minutes
In a deep pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter/oil over medium-high heat.
Place 4 to 6 pieces of chicken in the pot, or as many pieces as you can fit in one layer. Brown the pieces of chicken on both sides. As the chicken browns, remove it from the pot and add new pieces until all the chicken is browned. Set aside.
Heat one more tablespoon of butter/oil in the pot then add the leeks and celery. Sauté a few minutes until they begin to soften.
Add chicken, water, salt, bay leaves and peppercorns.
Bring the water to a boil and skim the foam off the top. Reduce the heat so the water is at a simmer.
Partially cover the pot. Simmer for 30 minutes. (Note: if you like, you can remove the chicken breasts sooner than 30 minutes, so they don’t overcook)
Pour the soup through a colander that is setting over a large bowl or pot. The chicken and other solids will be caught in the colander and the broth will be saved in the bowl below.
Wash out the original soup pot. Over medium heat, add the remaining tablespoon of butter to the soup pot and the tomato paste. Stir the paste as it browns for one minute, then add the tomatoes. Simmer the tomatoes for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to thicken.
Pour the reserved broth into the pot with the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer then add the carrots, cabbage and any other firm vegetables you want to add.
Simmer uncovered for at least 10 minutes, or until carrots and other vegetables have reached desired doneness.
While the carrots and cabbage simmer, take the chicken meat of the bones. Slice up as much chicken as you would like to add to the soup. Save the rest for another meal.
Add the kale and chicken to the soup pot. Simmer just a few minutes, to wilt kale and warm chicken.
Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
Recipe Note: If you’d like to freeze half of the soup, consider freezing the tomato-flavored broth and chicken, without any vegetables. Add fresh vegetables after defrosting and heating up the soup, for better texture and flavor.