RECIPE: Either or Either Minestrone

by - May 13, 2009

If there was ever a hearty, nutritious bowl of soup it has got to be minestrone. Different regions have their way of doing it - in Genoa they add a great big spoon of pesto to serve, Naples and Milan have long lists of ingredients whilst the historically poorer areas such as Puglia have a more modest but equally delicious recipe, some use pasta, some rice and some are just vegetable based.

I have my own mongrel version of minestrone that is dictated by what is left in the fridge and store cupboards at the end of the month. I do think that the ingredients can be varied and you'd be hard pushed to go too wrong with a little of this or that. You could leave out the chorizo and greens and I have made alternative suggestions for most items. Personally, I like my minestrone thick and with a kick of chili (lovingly grown, dried and ground down by my dad - cheers old chap!)

(Rough) ingredients:
Olive oil
Medium white onion, chopped
Small chorizo sausage (or some pancetta, lardons)
1 Swede, cubed (or any other hard root vegetable - turnips, squash..)
3 Large carrots, cubed
2 Small potatoes, cubed much finer than the other vegetables
Chicken or vegetable stock or even just water
2 heaped tbs of tomato puree or 2-3 peeled and chopped tomatoes
The rind of a parmesan, if you have it
Fresh or dried chili
Chopped fresh herbs (or dried if you don't have them) - stick to the Mediterranean sort and maybe a bayleaf
A drained can of beans such as canellini, borlotti, broad beans or a good handful of peas, fresh or frozen
A handful of small pasta shapes like grattoni, semi di melone or orzo (you could even use spaghetti, snapped into small pieces) or a handful of long grain rice
Finely shredded savoy cabbage, escarole, greens or even lettuce
Parmesan and extra olive oil to serve

In a large sauce pan, heat a good slug of oil and add the chorizo sausage and onion until the fat releases from the sausage and the onion has softened. Add and sauté all of the cubed root vegetables and potatoes for a few minutes, stirring regularly to prevent sticking. I always add a couple of small potatoes that I cut finer as they will disintegrate and thicken the soup.

Add enough stock or just water to almost cover the vegetables but not completely. Add a couple of tablespoons of tomato puree or a few chopped tomatoes. If I have the rind end of a Parmesan left from grating I chuck this in whole and remove it at the end. It releases a superb flavour and a great use for it other that the dustbin. I just save them up and store them in the fridge (yeah, I eat a lot of Parmesan).

Add salt, pepper a nice bit of chili for a kick and some chopped parsley, thyme and/or oregano. If you have a bayleaf or two pop this in now.

Let this all boil happily then simmer for half an hour, stirring occasionally until the soup has thickened. Add the beans or peas and a handful of small pasta shapes or rice and then the shredded greens. Continue to simmer until the pasta and rice are ready.

Fish out the rind and serve up with a load of freshly grated Parmesan and maybe a drizzle of olive oil if you like.

This will make enough for 4 generous servings and is even better heated up for another meal later.

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