Eating healthy is a key to wellness. Disappointingly, though, it's difficult to maintain a diet of organic and whole foods without over-spending, and public health experts recognize that wealth disparities go hand-in-hand with rates of chronic obesity. As a broke college student with zero time on her hands to build heart-healthy grain bowls or prep a week's worth of zoodles, I have to conserve my resources if I want to maintain a balanced diet.
Rather than slowly prepping a different dinner each night, or dining out more than my bank account can handle, I've come to rely on this simple minestrone soup each week. It's made with whole ingredients, includes almost any nutrient you can think of, and I never get tired of it.
I use an Instant Pot, so this recipe assumes you do too. If you don't, you can easily use a stovetop pot and adjust the cooking time.
You'll need the following ingredients:
- Olive oil – 2 tbsp
- Garlic, minced – 2 fresh cloves or 1 tsp jarred
- Parsley, chopped – 3 tbsp
- 1 medium white onion, diced (approx. ½ cup)
- Vegetable stock – 45oz
- Pinto beans – 1 16oz can
- 1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and chopped (approx. 1 cup)
- 3-4 carrots, chopped (approx. 1 cup)
- 2-3 celery stalks, chopped (approx. 1 cup)
- 3 large tomatoes, diced (approx. 4 cups)
- 5-6 brown mushrooms, sliced (approx. 1 cup)
- ½ cup elbow macaroni
- kale, stemmed and torn (approx. 5 cups, packed)
- Basil – 3 tsp
- Oregano – ½ tsp
- Salt or smoked salt – ½ tsp
- Thyme – 1 tsp
- Crushed red pepper – ¼ tsp
When dicing, I think the smaller the onion, the better, but the tomato size should vary. Using a small dice on one tomato and a rough dice on another allows the tomato to both reduce into the broth and remain as palatable pieces.
I've found that whole wheat elbow macaroni, while it's the healthy choice, is difficult to pressure cook. If you're cooking for one night, you're fine with whole wheat macaroni; if you're storing leftovers, the macaroni will fall apart as it soaks up your broth. So, sadly, I often opt for processed elbow macaroni.
One last note about your ingredients: always, always, always search for low-sodium vegetable broth and pinto beans. These products are often full of hidden (and egregious) amounts of added sodium, which you just don't need.
Alright. You've got your ingredients, you've prepped your veggies, and you're ready to cook.
1. Add the olive oil to the Instant Pot and Sauté 6 minutes. After 1 minute, add the onion. After 5 minutes, add the parsley and garlic. You can also add a bit of white cooking wine or pinot grigio vinegar here, if you like.
2. Add the beans and stock. Slowly, so as not to splash, add everything but the kale, including your spices. Your Instant Pot should be approaching the fill line; if there's extra space, I usually add more stock, olive oil, and white cooking wine until it's full. Turn the lid to Sealing and Pressure Cook on high for 6 minutes.
When it's full, the Instant Pot should take around 35 minutes to get to pressure.
If you're cooking on a stovetop, simmer your ingredients for about 10 minutes, with the pot's lid on.
3. Use a Quick Pressure Release by turning the lid to Venting.
4. Add the kale and Sauté 3 minutes, stirring until the kale wilts.
5. Serve the soup with Parmesan cheese and black pepper, if you like.
And you're done!
From start to finish, including prepping the veggies, this recipe takes me a little over 90 minutes. The cooking itself takes 50 minutes, but you can take the time while the soup is under pressure to get a short study session in.
This soup should last 12-14 meals, and it can live in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. To keep it cost-effective, use store-brand macaroni, beans, and stock. I usually spend about $26 on this soup's ingredients – not including spices or add-ins – so each serving is pretty cheap in the end.
I'm not exaggerating when I say that I eat this almost every day. It's that good (and good for you)!