Mamma Mia Minestrone

I love soups! And it is killing me that the weather is still not even turning the tiniest bit towards fall. I am trying to ignore it as best as I can and at least in my kitchen pretend that it’s time for soups, pumpkin bread pudding and other heftier fair. The pudding will need a bit more practice, although my husband commented (after having his second portion) that it’s made with too much sugar, cream and white bread, all of which we don’t really need. I wanted to strangle him, but he’s right, I have been complaining about my more and more unforgiving waistline since turning the big 40 last year. I guess I’ll be going back to whole grains, maple syrup and almond milk then, which are almost equally calorific as their white counterparts, but a lot better for the conscience.

The recipe of today, for the best Minestrone ever tasted, is nothing to worry about for all my figure conscious friends.  This soup is fantastic, very adaptable to the season you’re in (unless it’s over 30C/86F), full of good stuff and makes a great family dinner. It is a complete meal, so don’t think of this as an appetizer. No one is hungry after eating this soup, besides most will have at least two helpings anyway.

I got the recipe out of Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italy book. I changed it slightly over the years, mainly by adding more pasta and stock. I love it with zucchini and chard or kale, but it’s easily adaptable to any vegetables in season. Instead of the cannellini beans, you could use fresh broad (fava) beans, peas or borlotti beans. Great additions to the soffrito would be leek or fennel. A good quality stock is key, but that’s true for all soups. I used my homemade chicken stock, but if you want to keep it vegetarian, a vegetable stock is equally well suited.

Serves 8

Ingredients

For the soffrito:

  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • stalks from 1 bunch fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • 4-6 rashers smoked bacon or pancetta, optional
  • olive oil

Other vegetables:

  • 3 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise, then cut into 1 cm (1/2″) pieces
  • 1 bunch Swiss or ruby chard, kale or other leafy greens, washed, thick stems removed and chopped
  • basil leaves from 1 bunch, roughly chopped or torn
  • 2 cans plum or diced tomatoes

Broth:

  • 1 liter (a little over 1 quart) chicken stock (more or less, depending on how thin you like your soup)
  • 1 glass red wine

And:

  • 3 cups cooked cannellini beans (2 cans)  = 1.5 cups dried beans, soaked and cooked
  • 250 g small whole grain pasta or larger pasta broken into small bits
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to serve

 Method

Heat “a good splash” of olive oil in large pot and add all ingredients for the soffrito. On low to medium heat, with the lid just slightly ajar, cook, stirring occasionally for 15 – 20 minutes.

Add tomatoes, zucchini and red wine and season with 1 teaspoon sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Put the lid back on and cook for a further 10-15 minutes.

Add stock, bring soup to boil then add dried pasta. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes before adding leafy greens and beans. Stir and cook for 5 more minutes.

Adjust seasoning, add more stock if soup is too thick and serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

Buon Appetito!

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