Minestrone – An Autumn Highlight

I love summer and was a bit disappointed by this year’s season due to lots of rain, so once autumn came I wasn’t too unhappy about the change of season.  The reason for this is minestrone.

I have a pasta cookbook with a great recipe that I’ve been using for the last 3 or 4 years.  On a dreary Sunday afternoon – like today – I would start prepping the vegetables, then leave the whole lot to simmer for a few hours.  A few hours is quite a bit of time, so there’s no spontaneous “Hey, I feel like having minestrone, so let’s quickly make some”.  This needs planning.  But I don’t mind that, because there’s this great soup to look forward to at the end of the day.

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When I first made this minestrone, I was a bit dumbfounded because I couldn’t find swedes in my regular supermarkets.  And these are not corner shops but really large supermarkets.  I had to go out of my way to get swedes.  Luckily that’s the only ingredient that was hard to come by at the time;  now I know where to get them.  These days I combine the minestrone ingredient shopping with a trip to our beautiful market hall in the city center.  I also just discovered this lovely article on the market hall featured in the Washington Post a few years ago.

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  • Servings: 6 - 8
  • Difficulty: easy
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250 g dried borlotti beans, soaked overnight
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 slices of bacon, chopped
4 plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
3 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped
2.2 l stock
60 ml red wine
1 carrot, sliced
1 small swede, diced
2 potatoes, diced
3 tbsp tomato purée
2 zucchini, sliced
80 g frozen peas
80 g small pasta shapes, like mini maccaroni or ditalini
freshly grated parmesan, to serve

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If using dried beans, soak overnight. The next day, discard soaking liquid, put beans into a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to boil, stir, reduce heat, and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Discard water. If using canned beans, discard liquid.

In a heavy pan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil. Add onions, garlic and bacon, and sauté until onion is soft and bacon is golden brown. Add tomatoes, parsley, beans, stock and wine, and simmer – covered – for 2 hours.

Add carrot, swede, potatoes, and tomato purée. Cover and simmer for another 20 minutes.

Then add zucchini, peas and pasta shapes, and cook for a further 10 – 15 minutes, until vegetables and pasta are soft.

Season and serve with freshly grated parmesan. [As with so many things, I like to serve this soup with a dollop of crème légère on top.]

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A few personal notes on the recipe:

The first time I looked at this recipe, I was a bit skeptical because it didn’t mention any seasoning.  I decided to trust it, and indeed, no salt or pepper required at all – the bacon and parsley take care of that.  In fact, the seasoning mentioned at the end wasn’t necessary at all.

The recipe asks for dried borlotti beans, but you can use any kind, really.  I always use canned ones, because I can’t be bothered with the overnight soaking, and I mostly use cannellini beans, because they’re easiest to come by.  I guess the same goes for the vegetables, you can use any kind of autumn vegetables you like.

I usually add a few more potatoes, because I like the soup a bit thicker.

If you know you will be reheating this, you might want to cut back on the amount of pasta you add, because once you reheat, the pasta will become really mushy with no bite left at all.  The same goes for the zucchini, the more often you reheat, the less bite they will have left.  I usually put aside the amount of soup I want to reheat later, and then add fresh pasta and zucchini when I reheat the soup.

This time I halved the ingredients because I cooked only for myself.  Half of this is still enough to leave me with lunch, dinner, and a generous portion to take for lunch at work the next day.  Which means, I have something to look forward to tomorrow…

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