Minestrone cooking and served

Leah’s autumn minestrone (Seasonal Saturday: 04 May 2013)

As the weather starts to cool down, my family will make this minestrone a regular part of the coming months. It’s great in a small bowl as an entrée before a main meal, or serve up a large bowl sprinkled with shredded parmesan and lots of warm crusty sough dough bread.

When I first moved out of home in 1985 I hadn’t done much cooking. Mum was a great cook so I happily left things to her. What I didn’t know was how passionate a cook I would become in my own right.

Creating a meal to share with friends and family has since become a big part of who I am. I find creating a meal from fresh, local and sustainable produce to nourishing not only to the body but also to my soul. It definitely helps me get out of my head and into the present moment.

My food inspirations have always been European and the very first cookbook that I bought back just after I moved into my own home was Marcella Hazan’s The Classic Italian Cookbook. In the 28 years since it has always been a source of inspiration. The pages are well thumbed and there are marks from the various sauces and meals being prepared.

Marcella Hazan's The Classic Italian Cookbook<

One of the first things I cooked from this book was the minestrone. It has kept me healthy, comforted and nourished through good times and bad, through great big family feasts and quiet suppers for 2. The recipe below has been modified over the years and I hope that Marcella doesn’t mind that it’s now my minestrone—and of course I’m happy to share it with you :)

All of the fresh vegetables for this soup are in season now. I source most them at the weekly Marrickville Markets from my favourite providore and farmer, Beau and Katie from Nashdale Fruit Co. I urge you to buy your fruit and veg from as close to the farmer as you can—the quality and the knowledge that they a grown with love makes an enormous difference. The herbs and the carrots come from my garden.

Quick info

  • Serving: 8
  • Preparation time: 20 mins
  • Cooking time: 2–3 hours (but you can step away while this is happening)

According to my family it’s even better warm up the next day.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons olive oil
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 3 large onions, red or brown, diced
  • 8 gloves fresh garlic, diced
  • 250g washed potatoes, skin on, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • ¼ savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 3 medium zuchinni, diced
  • 100g round beans, diced
  • 425g tin cannellini beans, rinsed
  • Bunch of cavolo nero or kale, stems removed and chopped finely
  • 1.5 litres chicken stock (or vegetable stock if you want this to be a vegetarian dish)
  • 800g tinned tomato or home-made passata
  • 1 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • ¼ cup oregano leaves, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper

Directions

Preparation

You will need a large stock pot to hold all these ingredients.

It is worth preparing each of the vegetables before starting the process of cooking as this allows you to focus on the cooking and not having to juggle between chopping and stirring.

Minestrone should never be thin and watery (like you get in some restaurants) so cook until soupy thick. If you find the soup getting too thick you can always add some more stock or water.

And don’t be daunted—even though this has a long list of ingredients and a cooking time of 2-3 hours, it is a straightforward dish to make.

Cooking

  1. Put oil, butter and diced onion in the stock pot over a medium-low heat. Cook until onions soften and then add the diced garlic. Cook until onions are a pale golden colour but not browned.
  2. Add diced potatoes and cook for 2–3 mins, stirring occasionally. Repeat this with the carrots, round beans and then zucchini, cooking each one for a few minutes and stirring.
  3. Add the shredded cabbage, stir into the other vegetables, and cook for 5 mins, giving the pot an occasional stir.
  4. Add the stock, tomatoes and pepper. Turn heat down to low and cover. Cook for 2–3 hours.
  5. Fifteen minutes before the soup is done, add tinned cannellini beans, basil and oregano.

Serving

Sprinkle with shredded or freshly grated parmesan cheese and service with crusty bread.