Another cold day, another soup.
My minestrone is a bit time consuming, because of the amount of ingredients and prep but wonderfully relaxing to cook. Because minestrone is not a smooth soup you have to take the time to make sure the texture just right. I like a minestrone to have all its ingredients chopped very tiny so that you get a lovely nubby mouthful every time but you don’t have to, you can have them cut larger, just adjust the cooking time. You can also make this soup with or without the pancetta but the addition of pork intensifies the flavour, and adds a little luxury. Traditionally minestrone is from the ‘cucina povera’ style of Italian cooking (literally ‘poor cooking’) as it is very cheap and very adaptable. In fact, you can (and should) try to use almost any vegetable, cabbage and turnip are common additions and beans and pasta are the Italian staple ingredients but you can experiment with whatever vegetables are in season and add beans, pancetta and stock to your taste or availability. If you’re really pushing it, just use water instead of stock, it’s not as flavoursome, but still very good.
I always cook my pasta separately if I’m planning on keeping any leftovers otherwise the pasta continues to increase in size while it absorbs all the soup liquid, but if you’re serving it all up, cook the pasta in the soup, it will absorb not only liquid but all the gorgeous flavours. If you can’t find little pasta use spaghetti and break it into smaller pieces before cooking. I’ve included some tips below on speeding up the chopping process but I recommend you take your time, put the radio on (or Desperate Housewives, my current weakness) and slowly prepare until everything is ready in neat little piles ready to cook!
2 oz butter
1 large white onion
(optional) 100g pancetta, cubed
3 sticks of celery
4 cloves of garlic
a handful of grated Parmesan and a Parmesan rind (if you have one)
12 small plum tomatoes, quartered
1 1/4 pints stock (chicken or vegetable)
1 tin tomatoes
1 tin cannellini beans
2 tsb olive oil
100g fresh spinach, shredded
200g tiny pasta
salt and pepper
Parmesan to serve
Cut the carrots, celery and courgette into very small dice but keep them in separate piles because you add them at different times
I do my ‘tiny dicing’ by slicing the carrots and courgettes lengthways into about 5mm slices, then turning and doing the same lengthways slices to make strips. Then chop into little square dice:
Chop your onion finely and the leek into thin rounds.
Melt the butter in a large enough pan to hold all the ingredients and sweat the onions celery and carrots (and pancetta if your using it) on a very low heat for 10 minutes with the lid on.
After 5 minutes add the courgettes, garlic, leek and courgettes and continue with the lid on for another 5-10 minutes until the vegetables are only just cooked.
Now add the fresh tomatoes, Parmesan, Parmesan rind and stock. Add the chopped tomatoes and bring the whole lot up to simmering point. I like to chop the tomatoes into smaller pieces while they are still in the tin using scissors
Add the pasta to the soup or boil a separate pan of salted water and cook the pasta until al dente
Season your soup to taste
In the final moments before serving add the spinach, and cooked beans and serve with freshly grated Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil (don’t forget to remove the Parmesan rind!)
If you have cooked the pasta separately stir some olive oil through it and serve the soup with a few spoonfuls on top.
Absolutely delicous. I must say, it’s one of my favourite things to eat on a cold day. Warming and hearty, yet not heavy.