By definition, minestrone is a thick, Italian , carb-laden, veggie soup. In my eyes, this soup is designed to be insulation against the winter weather. It’s something you ladle into oversized mug, which you wrap your hand around for warmth, while tentatively taking small sips, fogging up your glasses in the process. The fact that you should also be on the sofa and under a blanket goes without saying.
I think one of the joys of minestrone is its versatility and whether it’s tomato based is neither here nor there. Even in Italy, every family and region has its own variation. This is peasant food at its best, like the French cassoulet, and it’s not about sticking rigidly to tradition rather using up what you have available: be it in your storecupboard, your garden, or your fridge. You can swap out the pasta for drained beans (borlotti, cannellini); if you fancy a meat-based broth then chuck some ham bones or thick slices of bacon or pancetta; and the vegetables can vary depending on what you have, what you like, or whats in season.
The one thing I am positively evangelical about, and which I encourage you to get on board with, is to follow Nigella Lawson’s advice of chucking in a parmesan rind to give the soup a boost of flavour. You can stash the rinds in the freezer and add to any soup, sauce, stock (try it for ragu or tomato soup yourself) even from frozen. It’s a neat way of using up food which is normally just chucked away.
might sound like a horrendous concept, but bear with me on this one. Admittedly its just a vegetable soup masquerading as a minestrone solely through its inclusion of pasta. Call it what you will, but it is chock full of vegetables and lets face it, at this time of year we need all the help we can get in terms of nutrition. So it that means side-stepping the “traditional” tomato minestrone in favour of one which packs a punch veggie-wise, then so be it.
I do hesitate to give a precise ingredients list for something like a soup, because the quantities you include will depend entirely on your circumstances i.e. how many people you’re intending to feed, what veg you have to hand, the size of pot you have etc. These quantities will give me approx. 4-5 generous servings. So use this as a guide and change the quantities to suit yourself.
- 1 leek, sliced
- 3 celery sticks, sliced
- 1 courgette, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 4-5 leaves of savoy cabbage
- 50g small pasta shapes or broken up spaghetti
- 1&half tbsp pesto
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- parmesan rind (optional)
- grated parmesan to serve
- salt & pepper
- 1litre vegetable stock
- chopped parsley, basil
Make it Vegan: Replace the Parmesan with vegan cheese. Make your own pesto using vegan cheese.
Toss the oil, leek, celery, garlic, courgette, and carrot into a large soup pot. Cook this over a low heat, with the lid on, for approx 15-20 minutes until the leeks are soft and sweet. Add the pesto, parmesan rind, and stock. Bring to a rolling boil over a high heat and reduce to a simmer. Cook over a low heat for 20-30 minutes with the lid on.
After this time, add the pasta (or beans) and cabbage. Cook for 10 minutes until the pasta is al dente. Taste and season with salt and pepper if required. Add the chopped herbs, and strain & discard the parmesan rind.
Serve in bowls or mugs with a thick blanket of grated parmesan cheese on top.