This recipe is based on Stefano de Pieri's version from his book Modern Italian Food. You might be familiar with Stefano from his cooking series A Gondola on the Murray. He is a wonderful chef who operates Stefano's restaurant at The Grand Hotel in Mildura, Victoria. My husband and I were lucky enough to enjoy one of his 5 course dinners with matching wines. The most delicious food I've eaten!
|My husband, Stefano de Pieri, and me at Stefano's restaurant.|
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 stick celery, strings peeled and diced
2 zucchini (courgettes), diced
20 green beans cut into 1cm lengths
3 ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 400g (14oz) can of Italian white beans - cannellini, borlotti (drained weight 240g)
100g (3.5oz) small dried pasta (small shells, macaroni)
2 litres of chicken or vegetable stock, or water
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil or stock
Salt flakes and freshly ground pepper
The first thing I love about this recipe is Stefano says "Consider the ingredients listed as a guideline, rather than a hard and fast recipe". That's my style of cooking. The original recipe includes peas which I've left out because I'm one of those strange people that doesn't like peas.
Get all your ingredients ready. Peel and dice all the vegetables. I like to de-seed my tomatoes as I like a clear soup rather then one with tomato seeds floating in it, but it doesn't matter. Rinse and drain the beans.
Heat the stock or olive oil in a heavy based pan, and gently saute the onion, carrot, and celery for a couple of minutes until they start to soften. Add the potatoes, and season with salt & pepper. Add the remaining vegetables and stir. Add the stock or water, and simmer with the lid askew for about an hour.
About 20 minutes before the soup is ready, I put a saucepan of water on the heat to cook my pasta. Once cooked, I add the drained pasta and white beans to the soup so they warm through just before serving.
Serve with crusty bread. For a real treat, brush slices of sourdough baguette with extra-virgin olive oil and toast on a griddle pan ... so yummy! There's virtually no fat in this meal, so a little olive oil won't hurt.
Notes & Variations: Many chefs use bacon bones or speck to flavour the dish, but I enjoy a clear clean tasting soup (without the fat). For a more tomato based soup, you can use tinned diced tomatoes and a little tomato paste, and you can cook the pasta in the soup rather than cooking it separately. Just add it towards the end of the cooking time and cook until al dente.
You can add more flavour by including: garlic, thyme, oregano, sage, parsley or 1-2 tablespoons of tomato paste. For minestrone alla Genovese, stir through basil pesto when serving. There's a whole chapter on minestrone in The Silver Spoon (Italy's cooking bible). Other pasta shapes include: orecchiette or you can use carnaroli rice.
Seasonal: Use whatever vegetables are in season. Other Vegetables to include are cavalo nero, savoy cabbage, spinach, green peas.
Nutrition: Cannellini beans are a white Italian bean, related to kidney beans. They can be bought dry, where you soak them overnight and boil them for 1-2 hours, or you can buy them pre-cooked in a can. They have a creamy texture and hold their shape. According to Self Nutrition Data, white beans are very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. They are a good source of dietary fibre, protein, folate, iron, magnesium and potassium. One cup (262g) has 7.8g of iron, that's nearly twice as much iron as the same weight of cooked beef sirloin. As for dietary fibre, if you've eaten these beans before, you know they work. If you make the soup with borlotti beans, it will have less iron but more dietary fibre. Don't be frightened about using chicken stock, it adds flavour and generally has very little fat. If you buy ready made stock, just read the ingredients list and the nutrition panel when making your selection.
Interesting Facts: Minestrone literally translated means big soup.
Ever notice how many dishes start by sauteing onion, carrot, and celery? By slowly sweating these vegetables, they release their sugars and create a flavour base for the dish. This is often called a soffrito.