In a nutshell, serving food for kids can be as much about how you serve it up—in both description and plate setting—as much as it is about ingredients and nutrition.
For example, my kids love pasta and would happily eat it every mealtime given the chance. They are not alone in that: I have met many an exasperated mom who shook their head and reluctantly admitted that their kid will only eat pasta, leaving them held hostage to a less than varied diet.
Thankfully, my two are nowhere near that bad, but whereas they’re happy to try other things, they do not share my love of a big bowl of steaming soup, even during this, the hearty soup season.
If I were to tell them that minestrone soup was on the dinner menu, I can guarantee that their reaction —accompanied by loud groans of horror, I might add—would be “that’s ’sgusting!” (I love their ability to test the vital limits of the English language, by the way.)
So to counteract that predictable response, I decided to add some subtle re-branding (slash lying). Instead of using the m-word, I told them that we were having ‘pasta soup’ for dinner.
Suddenly they were interested. Suddenly they had an appetite.
“Ooh, pasta soup!” came their reply, intrigued that one of their favorite culinary words in the English language had been magically served up in a new way.
It worked and beyond that simple linguistic trick, this soup is quick and easy to make.
Don’t be afraid to substitute the ingredients below for what you have in your store cupboard. In reality, there is no set recipe for minestrone, so just use what you have. Purists will argue that a true minestrone is made with borlotti beans but if you only have cannellini, or kidney beans, go ahead and use them. I love to add bacon as I think most dishes benefit from the addition of it. But again, use what you have.
Ingredients – serves 4
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 1 large carrot, diced
- 1 handful of greens – either kale, spinach or kale
- A few rashers of bacon, chopped up small
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 28-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes
- 1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 6 cups chicken broth or vegetable stock
- 1 15-ounce can low-sodium cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup elbow pasta
- 1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. Follow the directions on the packet but drain when it is just done as you want the pasta to be al dente.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent, which should be after about 4 minutes. Add the chopped bacon and cook for a few more minutes. Add the celery and carrot and cook until they begin to soften, after about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
Stir in the dried oregano and basil, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste; cook for 3 more minutes. Add the diced and crushed tomatoes and the chicken broth or vegetable stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in the beans and pasta and cook until the pasta and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Taste and season. Ladle into bowls and top with the parmesan and chopped basil.
Serve with crusty bread and a knowing smile…