Healthy minestrone soup to warm you up this winter!

Healthy minestrone soup to warm you up this winter!

On your side: The best store, bought minestrone and a recipe to make yourself

It’s soup season. And when the soup is filled with vegetables and beans, it can be really good for you. But when it is filled with sodium, not so much. Consumer Reports’ food experts took a closer look at minestrone, the Italian classic, to search for tasty ones that are healthier.

Consumer Reports tasters performed a blind taste test of nine of the lowest sodium minestrons, looking for well-mixed flavors and tender – non-mushy – beans and vegetables.

Does less salt mean less flavor? Not at all! Salt is a flavor enhancer, but herbs and spices and acids like those in tomatoes give minestrone flavor.

CR found that the best-tasting soups come in glass jars – not in cans – and are frozen or refrigerated. In canned food, soup can be processed under high heat, which removes the taste and makes vegetables, pasta and beans too soft.

Here are three that got the grades Very good for the taste.

Tabatchnick Minestrone (510 mg sodium / 110 calories / 1.5 g fat) comes frozen and is described as thick and solid. It has lots of vegetables and beans with a slightly firm texture and soft pasta shells. It has a slightly salty taste.

Trader Joe’s Organic Hearty Minestrone (630 mg sodium / 100 calories / 2 g fat) is boldly flavored with rosemary and other dried herbs and is moderately salty with nicely structured red and white beans.

Instead of tomatoes, Zuppa Rustica Minestrone (530 mg sodium / 330 calories / 16 g fat) is filled with beans, cabbage and other vegetables. It has 16 grams of fat, some of which comes from olive oil. It has a moderately salty taste.

But Consumer Reports’ top pick in the blind test is a homemade minestrone made by their trained chef. It had less sodium and the best taste of them all. So if you have a little more time, consider making your own soup. It can just taste better and be better for you.

CR’s Easy Minestrone

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried thyme

Salt tsp salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 (28 ounces) can not salt added crushed tomatoes

3 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups water

1 (15 ounces) can without salt added chickpeas, drained

1 (15 ounces) can not salt added kidney beans, drained

1 small zucchini, chopped

1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 ounces ditalini pasta, cooked according to package directions

4 cups fresh spinach

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions

  1. Add oil, onion, celery, carrots and garlic to a sauté saucepan or a traditional large saucepan on the stove. Stir and saute the ingredients for 5 minutes. Stir in oregano, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  1. Add tomatoes, broth, water, chickpeas, kidney beans, zucchini and green beans. For multicooker: Close the lid with the vent in the sealing position. Change the setting to print mode. Set the timer to 5 minutes. When the multicooker beeps, make a quick pressure release according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For the stove: Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  1. Stir in the spinach until it has withered, approx. 1 minute; add cooked pasta. Serve topped with parmesan cheese and parsley.

Makes about 10 servings

Nutrition information per. 1 cup portion: 210 calories, 4 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 33 g carbohydrates, 9 g fiber, 10 g protein, 190 mg sodium

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