Saturday, 2 February 2013

Minestrone - Italian Vegetable, Ham & Pasta Soup

A few years ago Princess' fondness for all things tomato led me to revive a favourite from my childhood in Italy, Minestrone or chunky vegetable and bean soup.

I used to have to puree the soup for her as she has cerebral palsy and has difficulty chewing, plus it hid the vegetables from her younger brother and sister.  But now not only to Sprout & Baby Boy help me make it, but the 'lumps' are positively looked forward to.

Minestrone is great way of getting a hugely healthy amount of veg and pulses into the kids. I remember supermarkets in Italy selling ready chopped minestrone packs of vegetables, but like any traditional family recipe the varations are endless. I feel that tomato, beans, bacon, pasta, and a green vegetable are key to the taste - but you may not. A vegetarian version can be easily make by leaving out the bacon but you will certainly need a stock cube if you do this to give depth of flavour.


Minestrone Soup
Makes 4 hearty servings

1 medium onion (optional if you are using leeks)
1 large clove of garlic
I large carrot
1 large stick of celery
100g bacon bits, lardons, or leftover ham
1 can of tomatoes
1 can of beans (haricot, cannellini, kidney, whatever)
1 litre boiled water
1 low salt stock cube (optional)
Half a small cabbage (or leeks, spring greens, courgettes, kale...)
1 handful broken pasta or small pasta for soup.
1 tbsp olive oil for frying
1 tsp herbes de provence or oregano

Chop the onion and garlic and fry in a large saucepan over a medium heat. When slightly coloured add the chopped bacon. Chop the carrot and celery, or any other vegetables you are using except any leaf vegetables (these need less cooking and are added near the end) and add when the bacon is beginning to brown. Stir and put the lid on for a few minutes to let the vegetables sweat. Add the beans, tomatoes, stock cube if using, and enough boiling water to just cover the vegetables. Stir, cover with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes. Finely slice the cabbage or whichever green leafy vegetable you are using and put down into the soup together with the pasta pieces. Cover and simmer again for 5-10 minutes.

My mum always used to say that this soup was better the day after, as the flavours seemed to develop more, but I am never organised enough to do this nor have enough space in the fridge to keep it cool overnight. The closest I get is to make it on a Sunday morning whilst the kids and Dad are having breakfast, then turn the gas off and leave it on the stove with the lid on firmly whilst we go off swimming in the local pool and have this for lunch 3-4 hours later with a sprinkling of grated cheddar (it should be parmesan but I never have it in).

Herbs on Saturday
Today is Saturday, and as it has dried herbs in, I am entering it into Lavender & Lovage's Herbs on Saturday Challenge

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