Ah, the bounty of summer! Gardens overflow with tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, peppers, and dark leafy greens. Who can resist them? But sometimes it can be hard to figure out what to do with all of them! Well, this lovely soup is a perfect way to use those lively colors, flavors, and textures.
Fragrant with herbs and bursting with nourishment from the good earth, you can make this one-pot meal in advance (during those cooler morning hours) or even freeze it. Either way, Summer Minestrone is a favorite with both kids and adults, a key player in the Mediterranean diet and lifestyle.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 or 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1 10-inch stalk celery, coarsely chopped
4 cups (about 12 to 15 large) chopped ripe plum tomatoes
4 to 6 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 stem basil, plus extra sprigs for garnish
salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 cup (4 ounces) penne, elbow macaroni, small shells, or other medium-sized pasta
12 green beans, washed, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium green or yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 2-inch by 1/4-inch strips
1 medium leek, washed, white and tender green parts cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 stems Swiss chard, stalks and leaves cut into 1-inch strips
1 medium zucchini, sliced
1 medium yellow summer squash, sliced
1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the oil and stir in the garlic. Let it soften for a couple of minutes, then stir in the carrot and celery. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 4 cups of the broth, oregano, thyme, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir. Cover the pan, bring to a simmer, and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Increase the heat and bring the soup to a brisk boil over high heat. Stir in the pasta, followed by the green beans, bell pepper, and leek. Cook briskly, stirring often, for 3 minutes.
3. Reduce the heat so the soup is simmering and add the chard, zucchini, and summer squash. If the mixture is very thick, or if you would simply like it thinner, add some or all of the remaining broth. Return to a simmer and cover the pan. Continue cooking the soup for 5 minutes, or until the pasta and the vegetables are tender. Serve immediately, or cool and reheat as needed. Garnish with basil leaves. Check for seasoning before serving and add more salt and pepper to taste if necessary.
Serves 4 to 8.