Making really good minestrone in the Instant Pot with dried, un-soaked beans is possible. I wasn't sure at first, and it required a few attempts to get the recipe right, but check it out! Deliciousness. Let's start at the beginning. Like many of you, I love minestrone soup. It's hearty and filling. It's healthy, made with a diverse mix of ingredients your body wants more of. And, if you have an Instant Pot, a good minestrone is going to be one of your standbys. That said, most of the IP minestrone recipes I see rely on canned beans, which I was hoping to avoid. Instead, I wanted to develop a minestrone version from dried beans - un-soaked(!) dried beans. Because, that way, you don't have to plan ahead. Second, I want to avoid that murky, overcooked, canned soup flavor (and texture) we're all familiar with - it shows up when you use canned beans and then cook them again under pressure. The size you cut your ingredients ended up being important as well, and so was when you add them to the pot. I landed on a specific order here that maintains brightness, acidity, flavor definition, and general deliciousness. More on that below!
A few notes & techniques:
Potatoes: I found any potatoes cut too small turn to mush after cooking under pressure for 35+ minutes. Not great. So, I started using big chunks of potato, really big - and they're incredible! Creamy, perfectly cooked, and nicely structured. Carrots are more dense, and handle the pressure just fine.
Tomatoes & Kale: I think the inclination is to add all the ingredients to the Instant Pot, seal it up, and go for it. The minestrones I attempted to cook this way lost a lot of vibrancy. But not this version! This version has you stir in crushed tomatoes, and kale immediately after releasing pressure. The acidity of the tomatoes brightens the soup immediately, and holding the kale back until the last minute keeps a bit of structure, color, and flavor definition.
Pasta: A lot of people love to add pasta to their minestrone. You can certainly add a handful of dried, short pasta before pressurizing, but, quite honestly, it's much better if you cook the pasta on its own. You can also stir dried pasta into the soup directly after it has pressure cooked, adding a bit more water if things get too thick. In short, on the pasta front, you can be pretty flexible. It's open to personal preference (and how convenient you'd like the process to be).
I like this minestrone straight and simple, and I also like it flaired out with toppings. A few ideas: a dollop of pesto, a drizzle of lemon olive oil, or a big squeeze of bright lemon, some chopped olives. Stir in a couple of handfuls of day old bread for something more like a ribollita.
Instant Pot Minestrone Soup
Pro tip: if you get long, thin carrots, they're easy to cut into tiny coins. Potatoes: use big chunks of waxy "new" potatoes, so they maintain some structure. If you like kale, use more. If you'd rather use cabbage in place of chard, do so. Or use a combination. To make this vegan, leave out the Parmesan rind, and opt for vegan toppings.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 carrots, cut into 1/4-inch coins
3 celery stalks, diced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
1 1/2 cups dried cannellini beans
5 medium waxy potatoes (the size of an egg), halved
1 3-inch chunk of Parmesan rind, (optional)
8 cups of water
1 medium bunch kale or chard, de-stemmed and chopped
1 1/4 cup crushed tomatoes (from can)
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
optional topping ideas: chopped black olives, a dollop of pesto, a drizzle of lemon olive oil, or a big squeeze of lemon juice
Press the SAUTE button on the Instant Pot, and press it again to bump it to SAUTE MORE. Heat the olive oil in the Instant Pot. When hot, sauté the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic until softened, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the chile flakes. Add the beans, potatoes, Parmesan rind (if using), and 8 cups of water. Press CANCEL.
Close and seal the pot, and pressure cook on MANUAL for 40 minutes* (high). Carefully QUICK RELEASE. Gently shake or tap the pressure cooker, and then carefully open away from you. Remove the Parmesan rind, and gently stir in the salt. Taste and adjust with more if needed. Stir in the kale, and once it has collapsed stir in the tomatoes. Serve as-is, or topped with chopped olives, and a dusting of cheese.
*If after 40 minutes your beans aren't cooked through (yikes!) and you have the time, just slow cook them, covered, to your liking. They should be close with this timing, but you never know! The age and quality of dried beans varies dramatically. Alternately, you can reseal the IP and go for another 5 or 10 minutes.
For reference, this is the Instant Pot I used for this recipe: Instant Pot DUO Plus 6 Qt 9-in-1
Prep time: 10 minutes - Cook time: 40 minutes