I don’t tend to hop on every trendy new kitchen appliance or gadget the moment it hits the shelves…virtual or brick and mortar. So, I took my time before leaping into the Instant Pot craze. An amazing sale on Amazon Prime Day tipped the scales. A few days after the box arrived, I unpacked my shiny new contraption and, because my mom raised me right, read the instructions. Then I packed everything up and shoved it the back corner of my pantry.
“Why?” you might be asking yourself. Well, the first several pages of the instruction manual contained a list of thirty-one “Precautions and Safeguards”, most that began with the words “Do not….”. Frankly, I was too intimidated to try it out. To me, Instant Pots are pressure cookers with a fancy new name. Many delicious meals were made by my mom in a pressure cooker while I was growing up…spaghetti sauce, chili, and black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day were some of my favorites. But I was always wary. My mom’s repeated warnings not to touch or go near it contributed to my anxiety. Then there was the New Year’s Day fiasco. I was reaching for something in the cabinet above the pressure cooker and somehow pulled on the cord. It tipped over and my arm was scaled by the supposedly lucky black-eyed peas. We spent the holiday at the emergency room.
That happened many moons ago and fortunately, there was no permanent scarring. Fast forward thirty years or so and I found myself wondering yet again what to make for dinner. Probably because of the series of unusually chilly days, I was in the mood for soup. Minestrone sounded good. Wondering if it would be easier and faster in the banished Instant Pot, I bravely retrieved it from the recesses of the cupboard.
Before long I was chopping peeling potatoes and snapping green beans, ready to take the Instant Pot for a test drive! It didn’t take long to prep and assemble all the veggies, spices, etc. for the soup.
My first pleasant surprise was that I could sauté in the same pot used for cooking the soup. Cool. Less dishes! I did have to push the “Sauté” button several times to get the onions and garlic softened and nicely browned. Once they were just right, I added the veggies, herbs, and tomato paste and continued sautéing until the flavors blended. Don’t worry…the recipe is at the end of this article!
Once the sautéing was complete, I added the remaining ingredients and was ready to turn the pot “on”. I scanned the control panel and couldn’t find an “ON” button. Admittedly, I am not the best when it comes to following directions. You must read them first, right? Default to the instruction manual once again.
Step one, put the lid on the pot. Check. Next, make sure the steam release handle is set to “Sealing”. This handle sort of wobbles around. That’s okay. The instruction manual says it is “normal and necessary” for it to be loose. My Instant Pot has fourteen function buttons. Fortunately, “Soup” is one of them! Once I pushed the Soup button, the LED display showed “On”. Progress! But it didn’t seem to be doing anything. Hmmm…back to the manual.
This is where things go from “instant” to “not so much”! Before the actual cooking part starts, steam has to build up during a preheating cycle that, according to the instructions, can take 10-40 minutes. Wow! That could be longer than it takes for the soup to cook.
Born a bit OCD, I set a timer. For my minestrone soup, it took a little more than 24 minutes for the steam to build up sufficiently to trigger the cooking mode.
Once the cook cycle began, preprogrammed at 30 minutes, I heard a beep and enjoyed the yummy aromas wafting through my kitchen while doing a bit of clean up. I definitely subscribe to the philosophy “A Good Cook is a Messy Cook”!
The minestrone smelled delicious and I was ready to sample my creation. But not so fast! I had to wait again, 10-15 minutes, for the steam in the Instant Pot to release. Good news…there is a shortcut. If you’re brave enough, you can flip the aforementioned steam release handle to the “Venting” position. Beware! LOTS of steam will come hissing out. Make sure the Instant Pot isn’t under a cabinet when you do this and keep your face and hands out of the way!
The soup was delicious, chock full of veggies. The pasta was a bit too soft, so I amended my recipe to add it after the soup is finished. Serve with a hunk of crusty French bread and top with shaved parmesan. Warm and filling, perfect for a winter evening. And my teens liked it too!
Here is my Pro/Con list for the Instant Pot:
You can sauté and cook everything all in one pot!
It takes forever (okay, 10-40 minutes) for the steam to build up once you have everything in the pot.
Fourteen cooking modes. Can’t wait to try them all out!
There is a learning curve for mastering the Control Panel.
Rice in as little as twelve minutes (not counting preheating).
Care must be taken to follow the numerous safety instructions.
Instant Pot Minestrone Soup
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- ½ chopped sweet onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 large carrots, sliced
- 1 lb. fresh green beans, snapped
- 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 8-oz. can tomato paste
- 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
- 15-oz. can cannellini beans
- 3 cups of water
- ½ t salt
- ½ t thyme
- ½ oregano
- ½ cup tiny elbow macaroni, cooked and kept aside
- Shaved parmesan for topping
NOTE: These are not complete instructions for the use of an Instant Pot. Follow the instructions for the model you are using, including the “Safeguards” and “Before The First Use” sections.
- Select the “Sauté” function on the Instant Pot.
- Heat the olive oil, then add onions and garlic in the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes.
- Add the green beans, potatoes, tomato paste, seasonings, and 2 tablespoons water.
- Sauté for another 5 minutes to allow the veggies and spices to meld.
- Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT the macaroni and stir to blend.
- Place lid on the Instant Pot.
- Move the steam handle to the “Sealed” position and push the “Soup” button.
- After the pot preheats, it will automatically switch to cooking mode which is preprogrammed to 30 minutes, perfect for this recipe.
- When the cooking cycle ends, wait for the display to change to “Keep Warm” before opening the lid.
Caution! Be sure to allow the pot to cool down before opening. If you just can’t wait, carefully move the steam handle from “Steaming” to “Venting” to release the built-up steam immediately. Be prepared! Steam will rush out of the opening so be sure your hands and face are not near the opening when you move the handle and that your Instant Pot is not underneath a cabinet or other item that could be damaged by heat and steam.
- Stir in the cooked macaroni.
- Top with shaved parmesan and enjoy!