Minestrone Soup, 19p [VG/V/DF]


I often receive letters and emails from friends, family and readers asking for ideas for cheap lunches. Aside from the ubiquitous cheese sandwich or home made scone-muffin-type-thing and an apple, banana or pear, one of my favourite staple lunches for this time of year is A Good Hearty Soup. And nothing says hearty soup quite like one packed with pasta and beans and chunky vegetables! I’ve been making minestrone soup for so long, I’m amazed it didn’t make it into either of my books – but I guess I’d never taken the time to write the recipe down and think about it too much. It’s one of my staples for a leftover half can of beans or chopped tomatoes, a scraggy little carrot or half an onion in the bottom of the veg drawer, tired greens, and those little broken bits of pasta in the bottom of the bag, or odds and sods of pasta that aren’t quite enough to do anything with. I keep all the last few bits of pasta, and the broken bits, in a large jar, smashed to smithereens – perfect for tossing into soups like this one. Why buy specialty tiny pasta, when you can make your own?!

Makes six mug-sized portions or four generous bowlfuls:

1 onion, 6p
2 fat cloves of garlic, 4p
1 carrot, 6p
1 tbsp oil (sunflower or vegetable), 3p
400g tin or carton of chopped tomatoes, 40p
600ml stock (1 stock cube plus 600ml water), 3p
400g baked beans with the sauce rinsed off, 30p
100g broken up pasta or spaghetti, 7p
½ tsp mixed dried herbs, 2p
100g frozen spinach, 15p

First, finely dice the onion and peel and chop the garlic, and toss into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Dice the carrot and add to the onion and garlic. Pour over the oil, stir, and cook on a medium heat for around 5 minutes to start to soften. (I’m often asked why I don’t heat the oil *first*, like many other cooks and chefs do, and it’s because even after all this time I’m not very fast at the whole vegetable-chopping-up malarkey, and so the oil gets too hot and it sizzles and burns the veg and me and it all just doesn’t work for me that way round. So I do all the chopping, and then add it all to the pan and heat it through. If you are a super fast and fancy chopper, you might want to heat the oil first and save yourself a minute or two.)

When the veg has started to soften, pour over the chopped tomatoes, add the water, and crumble in the chicken stock cube. Some people like to boil the water and make the stock separately, but we’re going to bring it all to the boil anyway now, so save yourself the washing up and do it the lazy way. Crank the heat right up, toss in the smashed-up-pasta-pieces and the mixed dried herbs, and bring it all to the boil. When it’s bubbling away, stir it well, add the frozen spinach here if using (fresh greens go in at the end otherwise they go limp and greyish and just not very nice, but frozen ones need time to defrost!), and reduce to a medium heat to simmer for 10 minutes, or until your tiny pieces of pasta are soft and swollen. Meanwhile, thoroughly rinse your beans, tip in and stir through. If you’re using fresh greens, chop them up into little pieces and stir them through to serve.

And voila – minestrone. Comforting, carby, beany goodness, perfect for popping in a jar or a flask to take to work. It freezes well, and actually improves in the freezer, so take one portion to work with you (or home, if you’re a homebody), and save the rest for later – and congratulate yourself on your hot, cheap lunch date. Hoorah.

Prices, as ever, are based on Sainsburys Basics range where available and Sainsburys own brand range where it’s not. Price information was correct at the time of publishing this recipe but pesky supermarkets change their prices all the time, and I have it on good authority that the other Big Four offer similar products in similar ranges at similar prices. And yes you have to buy a bottle of oil to get a tablespoon at that price, and a whole bulb of garlic, but you can keep them for your next cheap recipe. Boring disclaimer bit over. 😀

Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MxJackMonroe Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/agirlcalledjack


My new book, Cooking on a Bootstrap, is now available to order HERE.

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  1. Hi! thanks for the super nice and easy recipe! One question though: why the baked beans without the sauce? Could I use borlotti beans instead, or does the nearly-washed-off sauce give a special flavor?

  2. This sounds delicious, can’t wait to try it. I often make vegetable soup in my pressure cooker, can I do this in a pressure cooker?

  3. Hi! Thanks for the super nice and easy recipe. One question though: why the rinced baked beans? Could I just use borlotti beans instead, or does the nearly-rinced-off sauce give an extra flavour? thanks!

  4. Practically empty fridge apart from some grungy looking veg.Wondering what to do for lunch. Jack appears in my email with the perfect recipe. And I have all the necessary bits…even the frozen spinach that’ s been knocking around at the bottom of the freezer for a couple of months. Lunch problem solved! Thanks Jack.

  5. You can substitute the spinach with curly kale. I keep a packet in the freezer and put some in the mini chopper, then it looks like parsley. Also, use vegetable stock, Marigold makes a good one.

  6. you forget the bread needed to absorb the liquid before starting on the other contents, in my case about half a loaf of seeded bread. ADD 50p for that in my case.

  7. glad to see your facebook is back up (what’s with those guys?) That soup looks so amazing I wish I had had that for lunch instead of the ‘fish’cakes I made with a bit of leftover mash, kale, a spoonful of desiccated tuna mayo, and a bit of egg!
    If you had a bit more than 19p to spend, you could add a blob of pesto ( rocket grows very easily on a windowsill) and can be made with sunflower seeds instead of pricey pine nuts.

  8. Jack, you do, as ever, make me smile – boring disclaimer bit very funny! Anyone would think you had never answered those queries a thousand times already……

  9. Reblogged this on brown bread & baked beans and commented:
    This was a great recipe to stumble across, given I’m looking for ways to eat healthily but cheaply as part of the Breadline Challenge. I remember making minestrone soup for the first time last Winter, from a Jamie Oliver recipe, which worked really well. I love the heartiness of minestrone; beans, pasta, potatoes… Mmm! I’ll be giving this version a try later this month.

  10. I often use baked beans rather than fresh if I’m in a hurry but I never waste the sauce. I add it to the soup as well. It seems to take a bit of the bitterness from the tinned tomatoes.

  11. Home made minestrone is one of my staples too. When my kids announced they didn’t like cooked tomatoes, I started substituting the tin of tomatoes with a squirt of tomato puree and have never really notice the difference. If you use about a tablespoon of pearl barley or red lentils per person instead of baked beans makes it even cheaper!

  12. Thanks Jack,
    This is a good idea for a friends get together that I am organising. What could I serve with , before or after it to make it look like a “party meal” ?

  13. Just made this…..deeeeeelicious!! No bread required, thickened nicely with the pasta (in fact I added a little splash more water)

  14. Sounds lovely. I’ve just made an equally lovely and somewhat similar soup but without the pasta and baked beans and with chickpeas and chorizo and kale. Eating it as I type. It’s great. From a new cook book just out called the Lettercollum cookbook from west cork.great book!

  15. I have hypertension so have to be careful with my salt intake. Just found some low salt stock cubes and used plain haricot beans instead of baked beans and it turned out really well. Might try with pearl barley or lentils as suggested above next time. Definitely one to add to the packed lunch options list.

  16. I was lucky enough to be given a soup maker to review, I can easily adapt this recipe for use in it, thanks. Re the ‘can’t put in tomatoes because of kids’ comment; a soup maker blends too, so contents like tomatoes can be totally disguised).
    I just made this season’s first soup maker soup – a spicy dal soup. Like this recipe, it’s dirt cheap, nutritious and extremely tasty.

  17. I planted a single Jerusalem Artichoke tuber about 6 years ago.Every year it spreads, despite pulling up kilos of tubers, giving a lot away,making soups, best cooked alongside with carrots; I roast some, also baked au gratin. As I dig them up I unearth potatoes which I also forget about.I am a really bad gardener, but these survive with no help from me, bless them.What a bargain, buckets of soup for the original outlay of 60p from a gardener’s stall in a feet.

  18. Yum. Delicious and loads of it. With a week left until payday, and most of that going on nursery fees, I need more recipes like these. I have had a jar of posh haricot beans on the shelf since being given it in a Christmas hamper last year, and finally a great recipe for them.

  19. Ahahaa I was gonna go with the “well how are you supposed to buy a tbsp of oil hmmm” as this is the first recipe I’ve seen for a while thats had prices on – and waddayaknow you anticipated it! Clever girl! Love the descrip about veg chopping too. OK,off to catch up on the other recent entries – love a good backlog!

  20. Just made this, not had minestrone for years forgotten how good it is. I added a squirt of tomato purre (sorry couldn’t find the accent) and salt and pepper, how come you never mention them?

  21. Made this today as can easily fit in with my WW diet. It was lovely I haven’t had minestrone soup since I was a kid and one of my daughters also gobbled a bowlful up. Thank you very much for the fab ideas 😊

  22. Wonderful as ever Jack, thank you, I was sat googling minestrone and up you popped, love the book, not got the second yet and the blog, love it when an email appears. For the previous poster regarding salt and pepper, Jack cooks for small kids so omits the salt, now I usually forget to add it myself, possibly for the good!

  23. Well done jacko!
    I live in your area, if i bump into you i’ll offer you a drink, a hug, and a chance to swap ideas! Keep it up, s/end are proud of you.

  24. I have made this several times, with and without spinach and it is always good, especially the next day!

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