Minestrone

So down here in the Southern Hemisphere winter is almost upon us and this heralds the perennial popularity of two things in South Africa: Wimbledon and soup!

Roger vs. Djokovic aside, in our house winter has always been a season defined by your preference in soup. Generally speaking I have always lent towards bowls of a refined nature, filled silky smooth soups without a suggestion of rustic charm, but in typical spousal aberrance my partner has always championed the opposite. Chunky, vegetarian and woefully wholesome, his soup of choice is invariably the same every winter: minestrone.

MinestroneAh, minestrone – how I’ve loathed thee. In tennis terms, ’tis the Murray of soups: interminably unlikable. However, culinary speaking I have always considered this simple Italian classic to be my ultimate soup nightmare; watery, insipid and chock-full of vegetables and beans, what’s not to hate?

So with that said, it should come as little surprise that minestrone was the last recipe I expected to be talking about on my blog, but oh how things have changed. Quite unexpectedly I’ve made peace with my brothy nemesis and I find myself enamoured with this classic soup.

So what’s changed? In a word, consistency. It turns out that the devil wasn’t in the details (i.e. the vegetables), it was in the viscosity. It seems that with just a bit of tweaking and fiddling, even the most dreaded dishes can find redemption through a few pulses of a hand blender. Okay, so I’ve also ditched the traditional additions of rice and beans in favour of pasta, but beyond that this recipe remains quite true to its classic origins.

Note: I recommend adding some lightly browned chorizo as part of the final garnish, far from authentic I know, but damn, it tastes good.

Minestrone: Serves 6

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 baby marrows (or 2 medium zucchini/courgette), cut in half lengthwise and chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise and chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 potato, peeled and cut into 2cm chunks
  • 100g green beans, cut into 2cm pieces
  • 1 tin of chopped plum tomatoes
  • 800ml light beef stock
  • 20g orzo/risoni pasta

Garnish:

  • Olive oil
  • Freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
  • Finely chopped flat-leafed Italian parsley

Method:

  1. First rinse and prepare all your vegetables as above. Drain the tinned tomatoes (reserve the liquid for another recipe) and gently rinse under some water
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the chopped onion, carrots and celery, sauté for 5 minutes
  3. Add the baby marrow, green beans and potatoes, continue sautéing for another couple of minutes
  4. Pour in the stock (the vegetables should be completely covered by the stock – top up with more water if needed)
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper (not too much, as the stock may already be quite heavily salted)
  6. Give everything a gentle stir to combine and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a steady simmer, cover and cook for 2 hours, adding more water if needed.
  7. Using a hand blender, give the soup a couple of light pulses (don’t over do it, you just want to give the soup some body). Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly
  8. Add the pasta and cook another 20 minutes. Stir the soup regularly, as the pasta tends to stick to the bottom of the pan
  9. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil, some extra black pepper and, if you fancy it, some freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
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