Heart-warming isn’t always synonymous with healthy. When we think of comfort food we often evoke images of rich sauces, gravies, smooth buttery mash potato and puddings laden with equal amounts of decadence and guilt. Then there are dishes that cross those boundaries, ticking all those comfort boxes along the way yet content in the knowledge that what you’re eating isn’t just delicious but in fact good for you. For me, Minestrone is one of those dishes. Essentially an Italian broth based soup it is as flexible as the seasons and consists of vegetables, pasta and stock. However no fixed recipe exists as such and minestrone is made with whatever vegetables are in season but commonly with a base of onion, celery and carrot along with tomatoes and beans. In my recipe the inclusion of cavolo nero or other kale adds an iron rich greenness and is plentiful in autumn as is end of season courgettes. Although I use tinned tomatoes in this recipe, if making in summer of course substitute for fresh to take advantage of their height of flavour.
Minestrone: A heart-warming meal that is full of goodness
When making the minestrone the only other factor to consider is the chopping of the vegetables. You can chop as fine or as rustic as you wish, just remember to keep the vegetables cut to a similar size to account for similar cooking times. The pasta you choose is entirely up to you but whatever you choose just make sure to opt for a small shape such as orzo (rice shaped pasta), farfalline (small bows) or cocciolette (small shells). Alternatively break up spaghetti if you can’t locate any small pasta shape.
Add a small pasta shape such as orzo
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 carrots, chopped
- 3 celery sticks, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 courgette, diced
- 2 waxy potatoes, diced
- 200g cavolo nero or other type of kale, finely sliced
- 200g frozen peas
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 1 tbsp sundried tomato purée (optional)
- 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 x 400g tin cannellini beans
- 5 litres of vegetable or chicken stock (or a mix of both)
- 100g small dried pasta
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly grated Parmesan to serve
Mirepoix acts as a base for this soup
- Place a large, heavy based saucepan over a high heat and add the oil. Next add the onion, carrots, and celery, turn the heat down and sauté gently for 5-10 minutes before adding the garlic and fry for another 1-2 minutes. Stir through the tomato purée and sundried tomato purée (if using) and cook for another 2 minutes to remove the raw taste of the purée.
- Add the chopped tomatoes, beans, potatoes, and courgette and stir through. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil before turning the heat down to a simmer. Cover the pot with the lid and simmer gently for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until the vegetables are cooked through.
- Add the kale, frozen peas, and pasta to the pot, stir through and cook gently for another 10 minutes until both the pasta, peas and the kale are tender and cooked. Taste and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Serve with lashings of freshly grated Parmesan and crusty bread.
Serve with parmesan cheese and crusty bread for a substantial lunch or light supper