Assemble the soup mix in the first part of the recipe and you've made a nice food gift. Make the soup, adding fresh ingredients, and you've got a hearty pot of minestrone to be served with a salad or bread.
Layer the soup mix ingredients in a jar or canister made of clear glass, acrylic or plastic, with a capacity of 16 ounces or 1/2 liter or more. Remember to provide recipe directions along with the mix.
For best flavor, be sure to use name-brand bouillon granules. For a lower-sodium soup, use 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon regular bouillon granules and 1 tablespoon very-low-sodium bouillon granules.
Make Ahead: The soup mix can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 months. The soup usually thickens upon refrigeration; thin it with water before reheating. Cover and refrigerate the cooked soup for 3 to 4 days. The cooked soup can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
Servings: 8 - 10 generous
- For the soup mix
- 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon good-quality beef bouillon granules (may substitute vegetable bouillon granules)
- 3 tablespoons minced dried onions
- 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped dry-packed (not oil-packed) sun-dried tomatoes (may substitute chopped freeze-dried tomatoes or dried sweet pepper pieces or dried chives, or a combination)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram leaves (may substitute dried thyme leaves)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried minced garlic (may substitute garlic powder; do not use garlic salt)
- Scant 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (may substitute 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper)
- 1/4 cup uncooked pearl barley
- 1/4 cup dried red or brown lentils
- 1/4 cup dried green or yellow split peas
- 1/4 cup dried kidney beans
- 1/4 cup dried cannelloni beans or great northern white beans
- 1/2 cup dried medium-size macaroni, penne or corkscrew pasta
- For the soup
- 1 container soup mix
- 9 cups hot water, plus more as needed
- 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped mixed fresh or frozen vegetable medley, such as celery, bell pepper, zucchini and onions
- 1/2 cup diced ham, hard salami, pepperoni or smoked turkey, optional
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)
To make the soup mix: Combine the bouillon granules, dried onions, sun-dried tomatoes, oregano, marjoram, dried garlic and crushed red pepper flakes on a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Use the foil as a funnel to pour the mixture into a clean 1 pint or 1/2 liter jar (or similar-size canister or a heavy-duty resealable plastic food storage bag). Rap the jar on the counter as you work to even out the following layers of ingredients, added in this order: barley, lentils, split peas, kidney beans and white beans.
Pack the pasta separately in a small, sturdy plastic bag and close tightly. Tuck it into the top of the jar (or tie around the outside if the jar is full). If the jar or bag will be shipped, pack any headroom with crumpled wax paper. Close tightly. Provide a tag or card with the following recipe directions to go with the jar or use our <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/artsandliving/foodanddining/graphics/Minestrone.pdf" target="_blank">printable version</a> (PDF).
Minestrone Soup: Remove the pasta packet from the container and set aside.
Combine the remaining contents of the container with 9 cups of hot water in a large pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring once or twice, then turn off the heat for 10 minutes to let the beans hydrate.
Return to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook for 50 to 55 minutes, until the beans are just barely tender. Adjust the heat as needed so the soup is barely bubbling.
If the minestrone is too thick, add water to achieve the desired consistency, then increase the temperature to medium-high to bring it to a boil. Add the pasta from the packet; 1 1/2 cups of mixed fresh vegetables or frozen vegetable medley, such as celery, bell pepper, zucchini and onions, coarsely chopped; and 1/2 cup of diced ham, hard salami, pepperoni or smoked turkey (optional). Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the pasta is al dente (barely tender). Add salt and pepper to taste.
If necessary, adjust the consistency of the soup by adding hot water. Ladle portions into individual soup bowls; pass a bowl of Parmesan cheese at the table, if desired, for garnishing the soup.
The soup mix can be stored at room temperature for up to 2 months. The soup usually thickens upon refrigeration; thin it with water before reheating. Cover and refrigerate the cooked soup for 3 to 4 days. The cooked soup can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months.
From cookbook author Nancy Baggett.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.