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.
A note from Deborah Mele at Italian Food Forever says it all: “Minestrone to me is like a multivitamin in a bowl of goodness and should be enjoyed year round. It is a soup that is even better prepared the day before it is served, and although it is delicious served at room temperature, it should never be served chilled. There is no right or wrong way to make minestrone, and you may certainly vary the ingredients to suit your own personal taste. If you use fresh, ripe ingredients, little else is needed to flavor the soup apart from a long, slow cooking time to allow the flavors to develop and meld. Experiment with your own favorite seasonal vegetables and flavorings and create your own perfect bowl of minestrone!”