I have had amazing minestrone and then I have had my equal share of poor ones too. A good one, put simply, has every component melting in your mouth, all perfectly blended and balanced. It is both warming and healing
I had a beautiful pot of this on the stove top the other day, when a friend called by. She professed she found minestrone to be very boring and would never order it if she saw it on a menu! She went on to add that they all taste the same – “not at all exciting” were her words! I eventually picked my jaw up from the floor! Needless to say that if I shared in her feelings, I would not be blogging with pride about this gorgeous minestrone that makes my tastebuds dance and my body feel nourished!
Minestrone is a delicious and hearty soup based on vegetables and greens. It can be made more ‘special’ by adding white beans, pasta or barley. I love that in Italy, each household has their own version. I love changing what goes into my minestrone, depending on what season it is.
It can be easy to fall for the trap to over complicate but there is no need. Keeping it pure and braising the vegetables so they all melt together makes the difference. My favourite minestrone is when I cook it with the addition of smoky bacon or speck which I add at the very beginning with the olive oil. This makes the most amazingly delicious infused olive oil which of course, spends the rest of the cooking time introducing itself to all it’s fine new friends who come to dance in the pot. Everything is subtly flavoured and meltingly good.
If you are using dried cannellini beans, you need to give this dish more forethought. Your beans need to be soaked overnight and then cooked very slowly to ensure they do not split. You should not salt your cooking water so as the skins don’t toughen. Yes, using dried beans makes a difference but, if like me, you have a hankering for minestrone and often lack the ‘forethought’ part, substitute for a good tinned variety.
So, what happened to my friend, you may ask? Well, we had a very impromptu and lovely lunch together, albeit noisy with six children on school holidays. We devoured our minestrone with crusty bread and freshly shaved Parmigiano and………… she smiled her big smile (and whether she likes it or not, I read this as ‘okay, so I was wrong’ ) and she asked for the recipe – need I say more!
I hope you love this also!
A good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
100g smoky bacon, finely diced or substitiute for speck
1 red onion, finely diced
2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
3 celery stalks, finely diced
1 leek, white part only, washed well and finely diced
1 tablespoon of sea salt
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
2 tomatoes, diced
15 green beans, trimmed and cut into 1cm pieces
2 litres of vegetable stock or water
1 vegetable stock cube, crumbled
1 fresh bay leaf
3 sprigs of flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
80g tinned cannellini beans
Freshly ground pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and sensational with basil pesto should you be lucky enough to find yourself in basil season.
Heat a large heavy-based saucepan and add the olive oil. Add the smoky bacon and cook for 2 minutes or until it releases it’s own fat / flavour in to the oil (you will see the change). Add the onion, carrots, celery, leek and salt and cook over a low heat for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a further 4 minutes. Do not let the vegetables colour or burn. They should be soft and smelling sweet. Add the tomato paste and stir. Add the tomatoes and beans and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add the stock or water as well as your stock cube and fresh bay leaf as well as the chopped parsley. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 40 minutes. Add the cannellini beans and simmer, uncovered, for a further 5 minutes. Check for seasoning and add more sea salt and freshly ground pepper, should it be needed.
Remove the bay leaf and serve with freshly grated parmigiano, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and to make it even more special, add some basil pesto, should you be lucky enough to have it on hand.
Savour the flavour. Bon appetito!
Options : As mentioned earlier, you could use short pasta or barley instead of the white beans. You could also use cooked chickpeas. You could add potato, fresh borlotti beans, zucchini, shredded silverbeet ……….you get the picture!