I feel kinda funny calling this a recipe because it's so dead easy. But I've made it three times, and every time, Dave exclaims about...Read More
Italian Vegetable Soup (Paleo & Whole30)
I feel a little disloyal to my recipe when I say this, but…
I think I’ve hit the wall on Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup.
David and I ate Silky Gingered Zucchini Soup just about every week since I posted it in 2012. That means we’ve eaten approximately 267 batches of that soup. I know that I’ll go back to it eventually. Like black eyeliner and straight-across bangs, it’s a staple in my life.
But a few weeks ago, I had a craving for minestrone soup. In Italian, the name means “big soup,” and the original version includes beans and rice or pasta—and sometimes both starches! My paleo version is all veggies, and it’s very hearty. The directions are a little bossy because the flavor of the soup is built in layers: a foundation of bacon (and isn’t that a fine way to start?), then tomatoes for umami, then veggies and bone broth for flavor and nutrients. There’s a fast-ish version and a slow-cooked version—all explained below—and it’s very easy to transform it from a “side of veggies” to a full meal. Buon appetito!
NOTE: If you can’t get your hands on pancetta (Italian bacon), American bacon will work just fine. If you’re Whole30-ing, make sure you use sugar-free bacon. (And if you can’t find sugar-free bacon, you can skip it; just increase the extra-virgin olive oil by 1 tablespoon or replace it with pastured lard. This recipe is very accommodating.)
Italian Vegetable Soup
Makes enough for leftovers! | Prep 30 minutes | Cook 90 minutes
4 ounces pancetta or prosciutto (or American bacon), cut into 1/4-inch dice — Use sugar-free, nitrate-free for Whole30
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 tablespoon Pizza Seasoning (or a commercial Italian Herb Blend)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound ripe Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 medium zucchini, cut into bite-size pieces
8 ounces green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths
1/2 medium head cauliflower, cut into small florets
5 ounces baby spinach
8 cups bone broth (any combo of flavors)
garnish: fresh basil, parsley, and/or rosemary
Cook the aromatics. Place the pancetta and olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta has given up its fat but isn’t browning. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and pizza seasoning along with a generous pinch of salt. Cook until the vegetables are tender but not browned, 10-15 minutes, adding more oil if the veggies start to stick.
Umami that thing. When the veggies are soft, add the garlic and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and cook 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and keep stirring until most of their moisture has evaporated and the mixture starts to fry. You’ll hear a crackly sound…
Increase the veggie power. Add the zucchini, green beans, cauliflower, and broth; simmer until the veggies are tender, about 15 minutes. Add the spinach and cook until it’s wilted, about 5 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper, if it’s needed.
Now you have options!
Eat now: You can serve the soup right away as it, and it will be delicious.
Eat later: Continue to simmer the soup for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. This gives the soup a heartier flavor but it does render the vegetables quite soft. Choose your own adventure.
To serve, spoon into deep bowls and top with minced fresh herbs, a little drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, and ground black pepper.
I think you can probably guess which version I like the best: I never met a slow-simmered recipe I didn’t love! But truly, they’re both delicious. And this soup tastes even better on day 2 and 3, so you can enjoy comforting veggie soup all week long.
You Know How You Could Do That?
The veggies above are merely suggestions and the combo I make most often. But you can swap your favorite veggies in and out at will—just try to replace like-with-like for variety and texture.
- Swap broccoli for cauliflower
- Swap yellow summer squash for zucchini
- Swap asparagus for green beans
- Replace any of the first-round veggies with cabbage, kale, or collard greens
- Add cubed white or sweet potatoes during the first round of veggies
- Swap chard or watercress for spinach
You might also add a few spoonfuls of this Basil Pesto to your bowl, if you’re feeling sassy.
Make it a Meal
I like to think of this soup as a veggie serving, so I usually don’t cook the protein right in the soup. But it’s easy to add protein to make this bowl of veggies a complete meal. While the soup is simmering, brown 1 1/2 pounds of ground meat (pork, beef, chicken, turkey, bison) with 1 tablespoon of either Pizza Seasoning or Italian Sausage Seasoning. Place the cooked ground meat in the bottom of the bowl and top with soup. You could also toss in cooked and shredded Italian Pork Roast, these Pesto Chicken Meatballs, or the Italian Meatballs from Well Fed 2.