Minestrone is an Italian vegetable soup with beans, pasta and veggies that’s finished with grated Parmigiano Reggiano. The kinds of veggies and amounts are recommendations, which is why I call it a “clean the fridge” soup.

Don’t be put off by the length of the ingredient list. It’s just a variety of herbs, beans and veggies. In this recipe, no need to pre-soak the dry beans as they will hydrate during cooking. That is if the beans are fresh. If you haven’t a clue when you purchased them, the dried beans are still fine to use — but may take longer to rehydrate. You might soak those before beginning the recipe.

If you’re lucky enough to keep a bag of Parmesan rinds in the fridge like I do, toss a piece of that into the soup to give it more flavor. As you may know, genuine Parmigiano contains no wax; it’s all cheese. When the soup is done, either remove and discard or break it into small pieces and enjoy.

Don’t worry if you don’t have the rind. It’s just a bonus if you do.

Minestrone Soup

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry beans, picked over and rinsed (black*, cannellini, garbanzo, kidney, pinto, etc)
2 bay leaves

4 cups chopped tomatoes (or 26-ounce can), including liquid
1 cup (or more) cut green beans, fresh or frozen
1 to 2 cups (or more) small-chunked zucchini
2 inches Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
2 teaspoons dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh
2 teaspoons dried rosemary or 1 tablespoon fresh
2 teaspoons dried oregano or 1 tablespoon fresh
1  teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground or coarse

3 cups shredded cabbage
1/3 cup orzo (or other small pasta)

1 cup shredded Parmesan

In a heavy 4-quart pot, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cook a minute or two more.

Add beans**, 6 cups water and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, partially covered, 1 1/2 hours, or until beans are just barely tender. Remove and discard bay leaves.

Add tomatoes, green beans, zucchini and, if using, cheese rind. Season with thyme, rosemary and oregano, salt and pepper. Return to boil briefly, then reduce heat to low and simmer an additional 30 minutes. Add the cabbage and pasta, simmer 30 minutes more.

Serve topped with grated cheese or pass cheese at the table.

*black beans leach their color. Just be aware that although they have great flavors that they will darken the soup.

**If using canned beans, skip this step. Add the beans and continue to the next step adding the tomatoes, etc.