16 December, 2016
Minestrone Soup – “Multivitamin In A Bowl Of Goodness”
Minestrone is one of the soup staples of Italian families. The word originated from Minestra which means to dish up or serve. It is considered a “big soup” and is actually a large vegetable soup that reflects both seasonal and regional variations. There is no set recipe for minestrone.
Due to its unique origins and the absence of one traditional recipe, a bowl of minestrone can vary quite a bit from region to region depending on traditional ingredients, and most importantly, the season. The common ingredients include onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes, and beans. This soup is often enriched with pasta or rice, and may or may not include meats.
“The regional differences within Italy are reflected in the various minestrone recipes found there. In Liguria, fresh herbs are always used to season the soup where as further south, a parmesan or pork rind is considered essential for developing good flavor. In the northern regions such as Piedmont or Lombardy, rice is most commonly used as a thickener while bread may be used in Tuscany, and pasta further south. It also seems the further south you go in Italy the heartier and more full-bodied the ingredients that are being used are; including more tomatoes, garlic, wine, and even beef broth or bones for flavor.”
I found this information from Italian Food Forever. Now I understand why my family always made minestrone with healthy portions of garlic, tomatoes, wine, and pasta (we’re from Southern Italy regions).
When my Italian grandparents lived with us, they would make this soup at the end of the week, using whatever vegetables were left in the garden or fridge. It never came out the same twice, but always had a familiar and robust flavor.
- 8 ounces dried borlotti beans
- 8 ounces dried scarlet runner beans
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic (chop or leave whole)
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons parsley finely chopped
- 2 sage leaves
- 4 slices of pancetta cubed (can substitute with bacon or eliminate if vegetarian)
- 2 celery stalks chopped (I also include the leafy tops)
- 2 carrots sliced
- 3 potatoes peeled but left whole
- 1 teaspoon tomato paste
- 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
- 8 basil leaves (can substitute 1 1/2 teaspoon dried basil)
- 6 cups stock, vegetable and/or chicken (I use 1-2 homemade vegetable bouillons and either homemade chicken stock or 2 14 oz cans chicken stock )
- 1/2 - 1 cup red wine (I don't measure I just pour)
- 1- 2 zucchini diced into bite-sized pieces (or vegetables of your choice)
- 5 ounces small pasta (ditalini, small shells, or other small pasta)
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Soak dried beans overnight in a large bowl covered with water.
- Melt butter in a large saucepan and add olive oil, onion, garlic, parsley, sage and pancetta.
- Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally until onions are soft golden brown.
- Add celery, carrots and potatoes to the pan, cooking an additional 5 minutes.
- Stir in tomato paste, tomatoes, basil, and beans.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Add stock and slowly bring to a boil.
- Cover and simmer on low for 2 hours.
- Add zucchini and pasta at this point.
- Simmer until pasta is al dente (about another 15-20 minutes)
- After soup is ladled into bowls, put a dollop of pesto and shaved parmesan cheese on top.
- Feel free to substitute your favorite beans, or seasonal vegetables. I use fresh tomatoes when available or frozen from summer season. I sometimes add sausage if I want it to be a hardier soup.
- If fresh ingredients aren't available, canned peas and green beans are good additions.
- It's a very flexible recipe, have fun with it.