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Minestrone Stew with Polenta-Herb Dumplings

Stew is not a summer word, typically.

It conjures up visions of thick, stick-to-your-ribs sauces and rich flavors; hearty chunks of meat made tender by hours of simmering; and a snowy day to accompany the meal.

But you can have an equally rich and flavorful bowl of vegetarian comfort food in the middle of summer—minus the hours of simmering—with minestrone stew.

minestrone stew with polenta herb dumplings
Photo: Casey Barber

It doesn’t take much time to turn fresh produce into an aromatic, complex stew that tastes just as filling as a meaty version.

Add polenta-herb dumplings to the top and you’ve got a warm-weather equivalent of a stick-to-your-ribs meal—and you’ll barely break a sweat making it.

It sounds funny, but I actually first conceived of this stew after being gifted a whole lotta stone-ground polenta in the dead of winter.

minestrone stew with polenta herb dumplings
Photo: Casey Barber

Polenta dumplings seemed like just the thing to fill our bellies and give us the comfort we needed to make it through the post-holiday slump, giving us fuel for the cold months before the hopeful spring arrived.

But as it turns out, these dumplings are the perfect foil for a savory tomato broth in the middle of summer as well.

They’re a riff on my favorite topping for chicken and dumplings: a fluffy, drop biscuit-style dumpling that soaks up the broth while giving it body.

minestrone stew with polenta herb dumplings
Photo: Casey Barber

And when basil and rosemary are both fresh and available just outside my door, it makes complete sense to load up the dumplings with these fragrant herbs and take advantage of the season’s offerings.

Speaking of which—while you can make this minestrone stew in winter, spring, summer, or fall, why not take advantage of summer zucchini and just-picked greens?

As with so many plant-based dishes, it’s easy to substitute one vegetable for another and give your meal variety.

minestrone stew with polenta herb dumplings

So feel free to choose whatever kind of summer squash is available at the farmer’s market, or to switch it out for butternut squash or honeynut squash in colder months.

Same goes for the greens: Would you rather have red kale? Spicy mustard greens? Arugula? Baby spinach? Mix and match based on what’s calling to you right now.

I wouldn’t be opposed to adding a few handfuls of leftover grilled corn into the mix, either. Pick your favorite summer vegetables and go to town!

minestrone stew with polenta herb dumplings

Minestrone Stew with Polenta-Herb Dumplings

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Minestrone stew with polenta herb dumplings is a vegetarian meal that's hearty enough to fill you up, but simple enough to make in summer.

Ingredients

Stew

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 slim celery stalks with leaves, minced
  • 2 small carrots, peeled and sliced into thin coins
  • kosher salt
  • 1 pound zucchini or other summer squash, quartered and sliced
  • 1 bunch chard, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Dumplings

  • 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (70 grams) stone-ground polenta
  • 1/4 cup (7 grams; 1/4 ounce) finely grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole or reduced-fat milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. In a large (7-quart) Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-low heat.
  2. Stir in the shallots, garlic, celery, carrots, and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook for about 5 minutes until crisp-tender, stirring occasionally.
  3. Stir in the zucchini and chard and another pinch of kosher salt. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes until the chard has wilted significantly, stirring occasionally.
  4. Increase the heat to medium.
  5. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, rosemary, and 1 quart (4 cups) water.
  6. Cover and bring to a jaunty simmer, then continue to simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. While the stew simmers, get the dumplings ready.
  8. Whisk the flour, polenta, Parmesan, basil, rosemary, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Have the milk at the ready.
  9. Just before the 15 minutes of simmer time are up, melt the butter and let it cool slightly.
  10. Whisk the milk and butter into the dry dumpling ingredients.
  11. Uncover the stew and reduce the heat to medium-low again.
  12. Plop large spoonfuls of the dumpling dough onto the top of the stew. I usually get about 8-9 dumplings, but it all depends on how large you like them.
  13. Cover the pot and cook for 10 minutes more.
  14. Serve with extra grated Parmesan for sprinkling, if desired.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 350Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 26mgSodium: 706mgCarbohydrates: 46gFiber: 7gSugar: 9gProtein: 10g

The nutritional information above is computer-generated and only an estimate.

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