Minestrone

Chock-full of fresh veggies, this Italian classic has made it into our short list of winter staples. It’s particularly well suited to the holiday season as a healthy counterpoint to all the cookies.

Source improved upon public domain Difficulty trivial Time 20 min preparation, 35 min cooking Serves 2

Minestrone, the mother of all vegetable soups.

Minestrone, the mother of all vegetable soups.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp decent olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 2–3 medium carrots
  • a bunch of celery stalks (300–400 g)
  • a handful of small potatoes (200–300 g), pre-cooked and pre-peeled if available
  • 2–3 medium tomatoes
  • 1 can of giant white beans (γίγαντες)
  • (optional: some white wine)
  • vegetable broth for 1.5–2 l of liquid (to taste!)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • boiling water
  • two handfuls of dry pasta in coarse chunks, such as penne rigate
  • 1 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • grated hard cheese, such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Grana Padano, or Sbrinz
  • rough crusty bread

See this post about decent olive oil.

You can use raw potatoes if you like, you’ll just have to peel them… I like to use the pre-cooked and pre-peeled ones to save on some of the work. All the other vegetables in this recipe are fresh, so I don’t feel bad about that little bit of convenience food. ;o)

Preparation

Peel the onion and chop it. Wash the tomatoes and celery, peel the carrots and potatoes, and cut them into slices and chunks. Keep the celery and carrots separate from the potatoes and tomatoes. Boil up some water for later use.

So many fresh veggies!

So many fresh veggies!

In a large pot, heat up two tablespoons of olive oil and start sautéing them. After a few minutes, add the celery and carrot slices, and give them a few more minutes of sautéing.

If you like, add a bit of white wine to stop the sizzling, then add the tomatoes, potatoes, and white beans. Pour in enough hot water to raise the level up until the top layer of vegetables get wet feet, but don’t drown them in water — the soup should come out chunky and wholesome rather than watery.

Add a tablespoon of tomato paste and some vegetable stock. Since the volume of vegetables and water may change from one cooking to the next, it’s best to add stock to taste rather than a fixed amount. You’ll typically need the recommended amount of stock for 1.5–2 liters.

Turn the heat down low, put a lid on the pot, leave it to cook gently for half an hour. Before you do walk away, though, set a timer for when you’re supposed to add the pasta. Check the pasta package for the recommended cooking time for a nice al dente consistency, then subtract that from 30 minutes and set the timer to that amount (typically 10 min for penne rigate). While you wait, give the pot a stir every 10 minutes or so to make sure it doesn’t stick.

When the timer runs out, add the pasta, and set the timer to the pasta’s ideal cooking time. This is also a good time to wash the parsley, chop it coarsely, and toss it in as well. You don’t want to add it too early because its taste will diminish with cooking.

And then you’re done! Serve with a generous sprinkling of grated parmigiano or grana, as well as some good dark rye bread. Enjoy!

Variations

Feel free to replace the vegetables with others according to seasonal availability or personal preference.

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