Western Soup – Minestroni

Western Soup - 001 Minestroni edited re-sized

I enjoy soups with or as my meal. They soothe your stomach and comfort  your body when the day has been challenging. Making Soups – so forgiving and a good introduction for beginner cooks to build their confidence. Soups are not as exacting in terms of types of ingredients and they don’t demand precision in measurements – so unlike baking a cake! Here is a soup which uses up as many of the types of vegetables in your fridge as you wish and one of several choices of those beans in your larder. There is no fixed recipe for Minestrone. Minestrone varies widely across Italy depending on traditional cooking times, ingredients, and the season. Minestrone ranges from a thick and dense texture with very boiled-down vegetables, to a more brothy soup with large quantities of diced and lightly cooked vegetables. It may also include meat or a meat broth. Marcella Hazan in her book “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking” commented “…..There are no food processor soups, no cream-of-anything soups in the Italian repertory.”

What more can a beginner cook ask for? What a scrumptious way to eat our daily requirement of vegetables! I have friends who are afraid they will mess up so they shy away from cooking. Don’t hesitate please. Below is my version – use it as the basis for your creative energy.

Some comments about the Ingredients

1. Chicken Broth. Out of home-made chicken stock and out of time to make a fresh batch? (click here for post on Home-made Chicken Stock) My daugther-in-law, Joy, introduced me to this “Better than Bouillon” chicken base. My son and Joy are members of Costco, USA and whenever we visit we also purchase many items from there. This brand of broth is available on Amazon.com.

2. Canned Cannellini Beans. Another time saver. Traditionally, Borlotti beans are the correct substitute. I have used canned chickpeas too. Go ahead, I am a great believer of using what is already in your larder. Hence, since beans do not distract the main flavour, use that can of butter beans, Great Northern beans, pinto beans, lima beans; just to name a few.

3. Canned tomatoes. I like using canned tomatoes for Italian and Indian cooking as imported fresh plum tomatoes are too costly and local fresh tomatoes are never provide that flavour I like nor do they provide enough colour! Colour is such an important stimulant to our taste buds.

4. Optional. about 1/2 tsp of dried Italian herb mix or some marjoram or oregano.

Cooking

STEP 1. Heat your stock pot (photo shows my thermal pot) and add in some olive oil. Once oil is heated, add in the aromatics like chopped onions and celery ( a few pieces of carrot fell into pot, it is fine). Stir fry in an uncovered pot till aromatics soften and caramelise only slightly.

STEP 2. Add in the root vegetables (cubes of carrots and potatoes) next and fry for another 3 to 5 mins. Sweating the vegetables enhances their flavour.

STEP 3. Add the cubed zucchini  and chopped fresh tomato and continue stirring to sweat them in the pot for another 3 mins or so.

STEP 4. Tip in the whole can of chopped tomatoes, and continue stirring and cooking for another 5 mins or so.

STEP 5. Add in your chicken stock, give contents a good stir and cover pot. Bring contents to rolling boil. If you are using a thermal pot, remove from heat and place into thermal pot holder, covered for at least 1.5 hours. Place pot on the stove again and add in the can of drained beans. Bring contents to rolling boil again and place it into thermal pot holder for another 30 mins. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and serve. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

If you are using an ordinary stock pot, once contents are on a rolling boil, lower heat and continue cooking for  another 1 hour or so. Next, add in the can of drained beans. Bring contents to rolling boil again and simmer for another 30 mins. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and serve. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Serves: 4 persons

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 celery stems, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large zucchini, chopped
  • 1 large fresh tomato, chopped
  • 1 canned chopped tomatoes
  • 1 (15-ounce) can Borlotti or cannellini Beans
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil, plus more for finishing
  • 1/2 tsp dried Italian herb mix or majoram or oregano.
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, if desired

Method:

1. Heat your stock pot (photo shows my thermal pot) and add in some olive oil. Once oil is heated, add in the aromatics like chopped onions and celery (if a few pieces of carrot fell into pot, it is fine). Stir fry in an uncovered pot till aromatics soften and caramelise only slightly.

2. Add in the root vegetables (cubes of carrots and potatoes) next and fry for another 3 to 5 mins. Sweating the vegetables enhances their flavour.

3. Add the cubed zucchini and chopped fresh tomato and continue to stir to sweat them in the pot for another 3 mins or so.

4. Tip in the whole can of chopped tomatoes and continue stirring and cooking for another 5 mins or so.

5. Add in your chicken stock, give contents a good stir and cover pot. Bring contents to rolling boil. If you are using a thermal pot, remove from heat and place into thermal pot holder, covered for at least 1.5 hours. Place pot on the stove again and add in the can of drained beans. Bring contents to rolling boil again and place it into thermal pot holder for another 30 mins. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and serve. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

If you are using an ordinary stock pot, once contents are on a rolling boil, lower heat and continue cooking for  another 1 hour or so. Next, add in the can of drained beans. Bring contents to rolling boil again and simmer for another 30 mins. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and serve. Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Serving Suggestions

I have been concentrating on posting recipes of South East Asian cuisine to enable you and your helper to have a good selection of nutritious and delectable dishes to serve you family and guests. Once in a while, posts of Western recipes have been included. I intend to build on recipes for Salads, Soups and a few Mains in future posts.

Accompany this soup with Chicken Salad Sandwiches. (Click here).

You might also consider serving Minestrone with any one of these below.

1. Home-made Gravlax. Click here.

2. Baked Red Snapper. Click here.

3. Sweet or Savoury Crepes. Click here

4. Ginger Poached Pears. Click here.

5. Caramel Custard. Click here.

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