It’s winter for sure.
The freezer is more or less empty.
It’s time for a great big pot of goodness called minestrone.
Bennie’s not a fan, but I sure am.
Oddly, this Italian soup’s ingredients overlap with a variety of other dishes we make at home, but it is quite different from them all.
Minestrone is minestrone and they’re not.
I’m sometimes tempted to order minestrone when out and about.
But mine is better.
If there’s one Italian dish I do that could be called authentic, this is it.
Anyone who makes this soup knows that it’s better allowed to cool and then reheated. It’s even better the next day.
And, somewhat surprisingly, it does freeze well. Just leave out the pasta and be gentle in the reheating and it’s fine.
Many recipes tell cooks to use stock. Go ahead. I don’t bother with it these days – unless there’s some already at hand. Certainly, don’t buy stock. Water is fine!
Flicking through the various Italian cookbooks I use, pondering which minestrone recipe to follow, I finally say to myself: “This is ridiculous – I know how to cook this!”
So I do!
1 large onion
1 large carrot
2 celery sticks, leaves and all
flat-leaf parsley for cooking
2 courgettes (I have decided to use this term from here on in, because I can never remember how to spell zuch … whatever …)
1 good handful of green beans
1/2 small savoy cabbage
2 medium spuds
1/2 can cannellini beans, or 1/2 cup dry beans soaked overnight.
1 can tinned tomatoes
1 stubby dried-up heel of grana padano or parmesan
1 small handful of short pasta or broken up bits of long pasta
Parsley for serving
Extra virgin olive oil for serving
Padano/parmesan cheese for serving
Good bread for serving
1. Chop onion, carrot, celery and parsley – not too big, not too small. Throw in pot with plenty of olive oil and cook on medium heat until wilted.
2. Add spuds, courgettes, green beans – chopped likewise.
3. Add beans and chopped up tin tomatoes and their juices. These beans had been soaked overnight but not cooked before being added to the soup. They cook fine and tender in the time it takes for the whole soup to come together.
4. Add cheese heel.
5. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Add enough water/stock to cover by about an inch.
7. Cover and cook on a slow simmer for about an hour or an hour and a half.
8. Turn heat off and let soup cool for several hours if you have them available.
9. Reheat gently.
10. Add pasta 10 minutes or so before serving.
11. When pasta is cooked, ladle into bowls.
12. Garnish with more chopped parsley, drizzle with virgin olive oil and grate cheese over all if using.
13. Serve with some great bread on the side, grilled/toasted if you prefer.