If your childhood was anything like mine, growing up in Ireland Minestrone Soup was something that came in powdered form in a box with some questionable looking dehydrated veg. Nevertheless, I loved it. I tend to like anything with Italian flavours and a tomato base. Over the years I’ve been tinkering away with my own recipe and I’m finally happy with this one.
As with most of my recipes, this is not claiming to be authentic. It is just how I like it. Anna Del Conte says in her book Gastronomy of Italy that Minestrone Soup always includes potatoes. This to me would make it seem more like a stew so I leave the potatoes out. It is also often made with rice but I loved the little bits of broken spaghetti that were in the soup I had as a child so I’ve stuck with pasta. In this case, I used orzo, the rice shaped pasta.
You can really use any veg you like, after all it was originally conceived as a way to use up old vegetables. Green beans and courgettes make nice additions. Make sure to use a dark leafy green, whether it’s chard, kale, cavolo nero or in this case, spinach. Wine is not necessary but it does add a nice depth of flavour to it. If you are worried about serving it to kids the alcohol burns off while cooking.
Useful tips & links:
- I really believe you should always cook with the best ingredients that you can afford but it is really essential when you are cooking a simple dish like this.
- This soup tastes great when you make it but is even better the day after. It freezes well so I like to make a big batch and freeze it in individual portions for work lunches. The pasta may lose some of it’s shape but the taste will not be affected.
- If you want to make this vegetarian, use an appropriate stock and leave out the bacon and parmesan.
- Adding leftover parmesan rind to this soup is a great tip to add some umami flavour. I also add rinds to risottos and slow cook pasta sauces in this way, just make sure to remove it before serving.
- Anna Del Conte’s Ten Commandments of Italian Cooking is well worth a read.
- For more inspiration take a look at Peter’s Winter Minestrone Soup from The Kinneagh Kitchen.
- 150g of diced smoked pancetta or smoked streaky bacon
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 medium carrot, finely diced
- 1 stick of celery, finely diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
- 100ml of red wine (optional)
- 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
- A pinch of sugar
- A splash of red wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
- 500ml of hot chicken or vegetable stock
- Parmesan rind (optional)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 x 400g tin of borlotti, cannellini or haricot beans, drained
- 60g of fresh spinach leaves
- 50g of frozen peas
- 75g of orzo pasta or broken spaghetti pieces
- Salt and pepper
- A pinch of smoked paprika
- Fresh basil leaves, extra virgin olive oil and parmesan to serve
- Heat a large pan over a medium-high heat and add the bacon pieces. Cook the bacon until crispy and remove with a slotted spoon and set to one side.
- Leave the bacon fat in the pan and reduce the heat slightly. Add the onion, carrot and celery with a pinch of salt to the pot and sweat this soffrito mixture gently until the onion is soft. Add a little olive oil to the pan if the veg starts to stick to it. You don’t want the onion to take on any colour, you just want it to soften. This will take about 15 minutes. The carrots and celery will still have some bite but this is ok.
- Add the garlic and tomato puree and cook gently for another minute.
- If using the red wine, turn up the heat and add it now. De-glaze the pan with the wine and use a spatula to scrape up any bits of bacon or veg that might have stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- When the wine has reduced, add the tin of tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, vinegar, the hot stock, the bay leaves and the parmesan rind. Bring the soup up to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the drained beans.
- Cover the pot and simmer the soup for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- After the soup has been simmering for this time, add a cup of water, the frozen peas and spinach, and bring it back up to a boil. Add your pasta of choice and cook until the pasta is cooked. Stir frequently as the pasta can fall to the bottom and get stuck there.
- Add the bacon back into the soup along with the smoked paprika, and taste for seasoning. Remove the parmesan rind and bay leaves. Tear up some basil leaves and stir through the soup.
- Ladle into a bowl, top with a few more basil leaves, grate some parmesan on top and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.